New York City

A Conversation with: Allison McGowan of Teich Toys

Teich Toys West Village Interview

Meet Allison McGowan, co-founder and owner of Teich Toys & Books in NYC’s West Village and the newest interviewee in our series of conversations with Estella retailers! Allison and her husband first opened Teich in 2011 with a focus on gifts and home goods, and then opened a second location down the street specifically for toys and books a few years later. Read on to learn more about Allison, her favorite parts of owning a small business, and can’t miss spots to check out in the West Village…

1. You opened Teich, the gift & accessories boutique, in 2011 and Teich Toys & Books down the street in 2014 – what was the impetus for opening the second, kids-focused boutique?

When we opened Teich we envisioned it as a small, local general store selling gifts and interesting items for people of all ages. We stocked a small selection of baby gifts and kids toys and they were a hit immediately. People in the neighborhood were looking for a place to buy these things and there wasn’t much around here. After a few years, it became clear to us that were we to expand, it would be in this arena. One day the perfect location became available down the street (across the street from the neighborhood playground) and we just knew it had to be a toy store.

Allison McGowan - Teich Toys Interview

2. Teich celebrates “small-batch manufacturing and handcrafted design.” Where do you discover these brands, and are there any new ones you’ve found recently that should be on our radar?

We find our designers in so many ways. Many of them reach out to us or get recommended to us by customers. We love to check out craft fairs such as Renegade. One of my favorite places to find independent designers is on Etsy. There’s so much amazing talent on there. And being in NYC, we are lucky that we can attend many trade shows.

Finding new brands is certainly one of my favorite parts of my job. We’ve got some new jewelry coming in from Zoe Comings that I’m very excited about. She’s in Austin and makes beautiful ceramic jewelry. We also stocked some lovely leather journals by Bone & Paper that are handmade in Brooklyn.

3. Best and worst parts of being your own boss?

Best: I love the flexible schedule. Since my husband is my business partner, and we live and work in the same neighborhood, we get to spend lots of time with our young son.

Worst: I have so many balls in the air at any given moment that I sometimes feel scattered and frustrated that I can’t complete a task. When this happens, I have to take a deep breath and remind myself that eventually it will all get done.

Teich Toys - West Village

4. For customers who are looking for a special newborn or baby gift, what would you recommend?

I love a gift with a little humor, something that will make the recipient smile. Our giant Indy Plush stuffed animals or quirky Modern Moose clocks make fun and unexpected gifts! I’m also a fan of giving books. You can never have enough books!

5. Favorite #estellanyc product?

We all adore the stuffed taxi! It so cute and timeless and appeals to boys and girls alike. Plus it looks fantastic in the store!

Interview with Allison of Teich Toys NYC

6. What are some can’t-miss spots (restaurants, stores, parks, etc.) in the West Village we should check out if we’re in your ‘hood?

We love Meme, the Mediterranean restaurant on the corner. The food is delicious and the service friendly. The best part is you can sit outside on a nice day. Right across the street is the Bleecker Street playground, the neighborhood hotspot for the under 10 set.

7. Best part about summer in the city?

Biking with my family down the West Side Highway bike path. There’s so much to see and do along the way!

Teich Toys NYC Interview

(Images via Teich Toys)

Posted by Estella Editor in Interviews & Guest Posts, New York City, 0 comments

A Conversation with: Jennifer of Babesta

A Conversation With: Jennifer of Babesta

Next up in our series of interviews with Estella retailers: Jennifer Cattaui of Babesta! Jennifer opened the NYC baby boutique’s first location in Tribeca when she was a new mom and totally unsatisfied with what was already out there for babies and kids. Replacing pastel colors, overly-sweet patterns, and ruffles & lace with bold designs, humorous graphics, and urban-inspired styles, Jennifer made it her goal to track down hard-to-find, rock-star-baby-approved duds that were still comfortable, practical, and machine-washable. As Jennifer writes of Babesta’s website: “Don’t be afraid to give your little one some personality. Some pizzazz. Poke fun at your own youth with your youth.”

Since then Babesta has expanded its locations, including the newly opened store in Manhattan’s Brookfield Place. We had the opportunity to ask Jennifer a few questions on everything from foolproof baby gifts to the best parts of NYC in the summer and her funniest parenting stories…

1. Babesta is full of stylish items for urban, trendsetting tots. Where do you discover these brands, and are there any new ones you’ve discovered recently that should be on our radar?

We discover them literally everywhere – some designers directly reach out to us and introduce themselves via email, some we spot at trade shows like Playtime NYC, some we find by word of mouth by our customers and still others we stumble upon on Instagram! Our buyer, Chandra, just had an incredibly adorable little boy, so she’s even more on the pulse of everything!! All of us keep our eyes open all the time for things that can inspire us and would be a great fit for the shop!

A Conversation With: Jennifer of Babesta

2. Best and worst parts of being your own boss?

I love being my own boss because when I’ve got ideas, I have no red tape or convincing to do: I can just go for it! It’s a total family affair, which makes it fun, as we are building this all together—me, my husband Aslan and two girls Amina and Camille. The worst part is the fact that it’s 24/7 and the job is literally never done. It’s hard to turn off!

3. In addition to your Tribeca location, you just opened another store in Battery Park City’s Brookfield Place. Are there any go-to spots (stores, restaurants, parks, etc.) we should check out if we’re in the ‘hood?

Yes! Let’s start with restaurants, YUM! We are mad about Hudson Eats! It’s a great spot to go with your family, as there is something to suit every palette – grilled cheese from Little Munster, sushi from Blue Ribbon, salads from Chopt and cupcakes from Sprinkles – just to name a few! And then there is Le District, the French food market, restaurant and more – delicious! And we cannot wait for our new neighbor, L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon. Really, eating, you can’t go wrong! And now shopping! Lululemon, Theory, Posman’s books, Cos Bar, Satya Jewelry we’re loving! And coming soon, Dry Bar next door (awesome!) and Scoop downstairs! There is tons to check out! The area around Brookfield is spectacular – right on the water, with the marina filled with beautiful boats, it’s great to just walk up the pathway that takes you all along the west side, or jog (solo with your iPod or with toddler in the new Bugaboo Runner!). The parks and large grassy stretches in the area are perfect picnic spots – bring your badminton, soccer ball or whatever outdoor fun you want. There are lots of parks – Teardrop Park and Pier 25 are two of my faves – great water features to cool things down. Favorite after park spot, Grand Banks along Pier 25 – it’s a boat that docks there for the summer and is perfect for a relaxing drink & nibble. Another great R&R spot if you need some quiet, grab a chaise lounge at the end of Pier 25 (after the mini golf, beach volley ball & soccer field) and chill while looking over the water! Late afternoon/early evening, it’s true magic!

A Conversation With: Jennifer of Babesta

4. When customers come in looking for a special newborn or baby gift, what do you recommend?

We try to figure out what sort of gift they’re thinking of giving: a cool new ensemble, a toy, some books or music, some stroller accessories or nursery art. But one thing’s for sure, we always suggest an Estella MetroCard Rattle! That’s an all-time fave! These days, the Lexi Pexi Birkin Bag teetherODB onesie, colorful bandana bibscool shadesBabyLit board books (Pride & Prejudice, The Jungle Book, Moby Dick) and our Onesie of the Month Club (a new cool onesie which arrives in the mail, available in 3 month, 6 month or 12 month subscriptions) are some fun must-haves! We’ve got some more exclusive products coming soon so stay tuned!

5. Mother/child matching – into it or no?

I like mother-child “sense of style” matching. Not so much into the multi-generational twinsy thing. But if mom has a cool sense of style and rocks a concert tee, jeans and lace up boots, no reason why baby can’t sport the same cool style!!

6. Favorite NYC summer activities to do with the kids?

We just did a staycation in the city and it was so fun! We stayed at the Gansevoort Hotel in the Meatpacking District for the weekend, as we needed to stay close to the new store since its so new but wanted to feel like we were getting away! Their rooftop pool and giant swan pool toy were a total hit and even though we had to run down to the shop once or twice it was like a real getaway! While there, we hit the Chelsea galleries and walked the High Line. Throughout the summer, I love finding out what’s new going on (generally on blogs and through social media) and making a plan to have a new adventure each weekend!

babesta-beat

7. What’s your funniest parenting memory/story?

We were cooking at my parents’ house for Thanksgiving. Cooking is not so much my thing, so my dad, husband and brother usually take over the duty (they are really good!). Well midway through, they discovered that the garlic was dried out and no good. Word traveled as we were trying to figure out who could quickly run to the store before it closed. My youngest (8) hopped up from the sofa and said “don’t worry, I brought garlic!” and sure enough she ran up to the bedroom, brought down her overnight bag and in it, to all of our surprise, was a new head of garlic she had brought “just in case” from our home! We could not believe it!

Thanks, Jennifer! Check out Babesta’s website here and don’t miss the Babesta Beat.

Images 12, 3, 4

Posted by Estella Editor in Interviews & Guest Posts, New York City, 0 comments

A Conversation with: Penelope of Smoochie Baby

A Conversation with: Penelope, owner of Smoochie Baby

We are excited to be interviewing Penelope Stipanovich, the owner of one of our long-time retailers, Smoochie Baby in Williamsburg, Brooklyn! After originally opening the baby clothing boutique while living in Toronto, Penelope and her family moved back to NYC where she re-opened the store in her new Brooklyn neighborhood. Full of “big style for little smoochers,” Smoochie Baby’s a must for checking out what’s fresh in children’s fashion, picking up unique baby gifts, or discovering the latest new brands. We we’re lucky enough to ask Penelope a few questions about running her own business, can’t miss spots in Williamsburg, and favorite parts of motherhood…

1. Smoochie Baby is full of stylish duds for urban kids. Where do you discover these brands, & are there any new ones you’ve discovered recently that should be on our radar? I am always on the lookout for cool new brands. I visit trade shows, go to showrooms, and get daily submissions in my inbox. I also find new and noteworthy lines through blogs, Pinterest and Instagram. I’m a little obsessed.  Always looking…  Our newest lines are MimPi from Sweden, Billy Blush from the UK, Little Eleven Paris, and Miki Miette from L.A.

2. Best and worst parts of being your own boss? The best part is I have no one to answer to. The worst part is I have no one to answer to. In other words, I make all of my own decisions about the store but if I make a wrong decision (and I do all the time) I have no one else to blame.

3. When customers stop in looking for a special newborn or baby gift, what do you recommend? Our “go to” recommendation is our Smoochie Baby Brooklyn onesie, an Estella Metrocard rattle, Brooklyn 123 board book & a pair of baby sunglasses. Very Brooklyn!

4. Favorite Estella toy? The MetroCard rattle (naturally!)

Smoochie Baby Williamsburg

5. When you were a new mom, were there any must-haves (for you & baby!) that you always hand on hand? My organic sling from Dr. Sears. I was back at work right after having my son so I carried him in a sling everywhere.  I wore him around the house and all through the city, talking or singing to him the entire time.  I also loved the Boppy Pillow and an organic sleep sack.  I used it from the time we were done swaddling and he would associate being zipped up in it with sleep time, and go right to sleep. At the time, sleep sacks were not popular in the U.S. (he is 10 years old now) but they were everywhere in Europe. I like to think I played a part in bringing them here.

5. You’re store in located right in Williamsburg, Brooklyn – any favorite neighborhood spots (stores, restaurants, parks, etc.) that we should check out if we’re in the area? Not just because it is my husband’s but my hands down favorite restaurant is The Heyward on Wythe Avenue. They serve delicious “new southern” cuisine and the most incredible cocktails. I also love Mogador & Cafe Colette. The East River State Park (with the Manhattan skyline as its backdrop) is always fun for a stroll but especially so on Saturdays when Smorgasborg is going on. You can sample yummy food form a myriad of Brooklyn purveyors. My favorite stores in the neighborhood include Pearl, Shoe Market, A & G Merch and CatBird. I always love to stop in to Mast Brothers for a bar of their divine chocolate and for kids clothing Smoochie Baby of course!

An Interview with: Penelope of Smoochie Baby

6. What about NYC in general – any can’t-miss, baby & kid-friendly places or activities (especially now with the warmer weather!)? Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park has the best playground in New York City. Don’t just take my word for it, Time Out Kids said so as well for the last 2 years in a row. If you’re coming from Manhattan, ride the East River Ferry to get there and be sure to stop at Pier 1 on the way for a ride on the gorgeously restored Jane’s Carousel. In Manhattan I love the splash pad in Madison Square Park. We used to go there all the time when Max was little. For an old fashioned soda fountain experience head to Farmacy in Cobble Hill and sit at the counter. It’s awesome!

7. Finally, what’s one thing nobody told you about parenthood? That you will not sleep in again until your child is 16. But it’s okay because being a parent is the single most rewarding experience of your life!

Thanks, Penelope! Check out Smoochie Baby’s online store here.

Posted by Estella Editor in Interviews & Guest Posts, New York City, 0 comments

A Conversation with: Jak of Baby Does… NYC

Organic Baby Rattles - Estella Taxi Rattle

We chatted with Jak Burke, founder of the website Baby Does… NYC, on her favorite baby-friendly restaurants, hidden NYC gems, and how to survive long winters with baby:

1. Tell us about Baby Does…NYC and why you decided to start the site.

I’m a London born and bred girl but when I visited New York in 2001 I was instantly hooked. Within 12 months I had sold everything in the U.K and shipped out to NYC. I quickly began to work with families and small children in the city… I soon realized that there was an info gap for the 0-24 months age group. I also wanted to host a site that offered healthy, locally made goods and services for busy parents. In 2007 I registered my company and trademark Baby Does NYC. In 2012 we fully launched with a team.

2. In your opinion, what are the best parts of raising a baby in the city?

Oh where to begin! NYC is literally the best place on earth to raise a family. The city has everything: nature, enrichment, culture and some of the most progressive companies in the juvenile market. The city also feels like a collection of communities. Each neighborhood has its own unique scene and cultural vibe. Events for kids in NYC are also superior simply because of the concentration of talent and ingenuity here.

Organic Baby Toys - Estella Taxi Rattle

3. Can you let us in on any hidden NYC gems (parks, museums, play groups, etc.)?

To be honest everything in NYC is pretty spectacular and it’s difficult to pick a few things in particular but I am always pleasantly surprised by classes aimed at babies. For example, the Guggenheim has a stroller tour that is interactive (tots get to do stuff) as well as deeply enriching visually. It’s also a great social mixer for parents. The Mahayana Temple in Chinatown is an oasis of tranquility in a noisy neighborhood. See how your baby responds to the giant golden Buddha. On a similar theme, The New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden in Snug Harbor, Staten Island, is sublime in terms of peace and beauty. For more boisterous fun I love to go to Coney Island and enjoy the historic boardwalk amusements and beach.

Baby Toys Taxi Rattle by Estella

4. Winters in the city can be tough for anyone, but especially when you have a newborn. Any tips on surviving the season without just hibernating at home?

Yes, in fact I recently wrote a post all about winter and how to survive it. Feeling isolated and trapped while undergoing sleep deprivation can be brutal for new mothers. I recommend that moms prepare for inclement weather by weather-proofing their strollers and baby carriers, then get outside! If your building has a community garden or rooftop grab some sunlight and fresh air at least once a day. Book regular drop-in classes for baby in your neighborhood – Kidz Central Station lists hundreds of classes for infants by zip code. We partner with them every week to promote different events. Also check out what’s going on at your local library. The NYPL has a variety of weekly free events for children and babies in most neighborhoods. Join a local parent forum and attend meet-ups at places like Barnes & Noble. Reach out to other parents in your neighborhood and building – host coffee mornings or breast-feeding dates. Last but not least accept help. Allow a relative or a friend to babysit for an hour or two while you nap or take a walk. Remember a happy baby needs a happy mama too.

Organic Baby Toys - Estella Taxi Rattle

5. And when the weather’s nicer…What are some can’t-miss outdoor spots?

Once the weather is temperate it’s fun to go further afield and explore other boroughs and even islands! Take a ferry ride to Staten Island and visit Snug Harbor with its wonderful children’s museum and exquisitely themed gardens. Visit Roosevelt Island and take a tram ride and see the lighthouse. Take a free ferry and grab some art on Governor’s Island. You can also enjoy a bike ride and picnic alongside some amazing outdoor art installations. I also recommend that parents attend some of the glorious parks in Queens and the Bronx. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is a wonderful place to enjoy springtime’s Cherry Blossoms.

6. Favorite baby-friendly restaurants?

NYC is pretty baby-friendly at least during the day and early evening. Navigating a tightly packed restaurant with a stroller is trickier though so bring a baby seat or booster seat and park your stroller outside. I personally love Bubbys on the weekends when the neighborhood’s families are feasting on pancakes. For an early supper try Cowgirl Hall of Fame in the West Village. Uptown The Indian Road Café in Inwood serves locally farmed foods and they also host live music. Brooklyn would require a food page of its own – neighborhoods like Fort Greene and Park Slope boast amazing eateries for families. I recommend you just wander. Queens has some fun ethnic beer gardens with outdoor music events. It also has some of the best Indian family-friendly venues in NYC. The Bronx hosts quite a few tasty Italian restaurants like Villaggio Ristorante and Patricia’s. For fun-dining on Staten Island why not go for some steak and sushi at Arirang Hibachi Steakhouse and Sushi Bar or Bavarian cuisine at Killmeyer’s Old Bavaria Inn? It’s good to remember that because your child is under two you can still opt for a menu that does not involve fries and pancakes – so make the most of it and be adventurous!

Organic Baby Toys - Estella Taxi Rattle

7. What baby gear or accessories do you think all NYC mom’s should invest in?

A good light-weight but robust stroller with a compact diaper bag (one that straps easily to the stroller) and a stroller organizer are must-have items as well as a supportive baby carrier. You can buy just about anything for a baby within a block or two’s radius so new parents can afford to travel light.

Thanks, Jackalyn! Head on over to Baby Does…NYC for more on all things baby.

(Image 2 via Bel & Beau, 4 via Annie Dean.)

Posted by Estella Editor in Interviews & Guest Posts, New York City, Tips + Tricks, 0 comments

A Conversation with: Pink Olive’s Grace Kang

Interview with Grace Kang of Pink Olive

We are thrilled to be interviewing Grace Kang, founder and buyer of gift shop Pink Olive, one of our oldest retailers! After years as a successful buyer, Grace opened her first brick and mortar store in the East Village in 2007 and filled it with baby gifts, home decor items, and whimsical treasures that are full of style and charm. Since then, Grace has expanded Pink Olive to include two more locations and an online shop. We were lucky enough to ask Grace a few questions about running her own business, favorite places in NYC, favorite baby gifts, and foul-proof holiday presents. Enjoy!

1. You spent many years working as a buyer in women’s fashion before making the leap to a small business owner. What inspired the change?

I always knew I wanted to have my own business, it was just a matter of when. I told myself that until that day comes, I was determined to be a sponge and learn as much as I could about the retail industry. The truth is, I really loved being in the corporate world as well and never thought I would leave my job as a successful fashion buyer for Bloomingdale’s, Saks and Barney’s.  As someone who excelled as a buyer in the fashion industry, it took stepping out of my comfort zone to realize my true passion: inspiring people to give and create a beautiful living. In 2007, I opened a store called Pink Olive. Not only was it the most rewarding risk I have ever taken, but it was also the most unexpected. Pink Olive is more than just an ordinary gift shop. It’s a creative place dedicated to the simple joy of gift giving.

2. What are your most and least favorite parts of being your own boss?

My favorite part of being my own boss is being able to make a difference and inspire people, even in the smallest of ways. As customers often share with us, Pink Olive is their “happy place.”  I also love to share my journey on Instagram and give people a glimpse into my world. I wouldn’t say I have a least favorite part of my job; however, the most challenging part is finding the right people for your team. It’s ever-changing, and you have to be constantly looking for those “gems” who truly get what you do :)

Grace Kang Interview - Pink Olive

3. You have three stores in three very distinct NYC neighborhoods, the East Village, Park Slope, and Williamsburg. Why did you choose these neighborhoods, and what do you love most about each one?

All three neighborhoods fit the clientele of our ideal customer, but in slightly different ways. They’re like having children, all similar but also distinctly different. Our East Village location appeals mostly to creatives, single ladies, aunties/uncles, newly engaged couples and tourists. Our Park Slope location appeals to creatives as well, but also many first-time families and Brooklyn locals. Our newest location in Williamsburg has a similar vibe as our East Village shop, appealing to creatives, single ladies and gents, families and tourists!

4. Pink Olive is full of whimsical items and unexpected finds. Where do discover these brands and products?

We find our products all over! Our team scours creative brands online, on blogs and social media, and through our travel adventures. Many designers approach us, but we also reach out to many brands that appeal to our shop aesthetic!

5. Similarly, are there any places in NYC (stores, restaurants, museums, parks, etc.) that you consider to be hidden gems?

I have a few favorite hidden gems in the East Village, particularly restaurants! I am such a foodie so I visit Northern Spy Food Co.Zucker Bakery and Dirt Candy frequently! So many yummy options, and luckily each restaurant is located super close to our East Village shop – perfect for when I need a mid-afternoon pick-me-up!

Pink Olive - Grace Kang Interview

6. For customers who stop in looking for a special something for a newborn and toddler, what do you recommend? Does your niece have any favorite items from your store?

There are so many great designers that we work with in finding that perfect baby gift. We have many go-to designers for specific needs. We love Pink Chicken for cute toddler dresses, TANE organics & Oeuf for sophisticated baby gear and Maileg and BlaBla for whimsical baby and toddler gifts. Also, we LOVE suggesting books for any baby gift :) Your taxi and Metrocard rattles have been a huge hit as the perfect NYC baby gift, as well :) For our online customers, they can go here to pick out their perfect baby gift assortment as easy as 1-2-3.

As for my niece, she was obsessed with the bashful beige bunny from Jellycat when she was young. Now, she’s a pre-teen and lovesssss all the fun paper goods and OliveBox!

7. The holiday season is swiftly approaching – are there any new trendy items or foolproof gifts we should keep an eye out for as we begin our holiday shopping?

Our “you are loved” collection has really taken off since last year. The mugs and tote bags are hot sellers, as well as the new pumpkin and hot chocolate scented candles :) We also have curated a wonderful collection of our favorite things in our Pink Olive holiday gift guide seen here!

Pink Olive Store

Thank you, Grace!
(Images via Julia Cawley)

Posted by Estella Editor in Interviews & Guest Posts, New York City, 0 comments