In the Press
New Business: Once Upon A Child
grandma bought the frilly baby dress a size too small. Maybe you
dropped big bucks on a toddler blazer that was put on once. But chances
are that if you are a parent, you’ve accumulated some never worn or
hardly worn clothing that is now taking up space in a storage bin. If
so, you need to meet the Schmidts and their new business.
Kim and Geoff Schmidt and their daughter Erin are the proud owners of Once Upon A Child,
a franchise that buys and sells gently used clothes and gear. You’ll
find everything from toddler togs to big kids’ outerwear, ride-on toys
You just won’t find the business in Verona. The Schmidts have lived
in Verona since 1986, but their newest business is based in the same
town as their previous two: Fairfield. The Schmidts opened the indoor
play space Funtime Junction 18 years ago and the nearby miniature golf course Dynamite Falls
in 2001. Erin Schmidt grew up with her siblings in the businesses and
managed both over the years. But it was the birth of her son two years
ago that set the family on its newest entrepreneurial venture.
“We were on vacation in South Carolina and wandered into into a Once
Upon A Child store,” says Kim Schmidt. “And I discovered Ralph Lauren
baby jerseys for $6.50. I said, ‘What is this place and how do they do
that?’ ” Geoff Schmidt did some homework on the Minneapolis-based
company, which has more than 240 franchises across the U.S. and Canada.
The family then went on a frustrating search for a location: They needed
at least 3,000 square feet and recession or no, many landlords weren’t
willing to budge on the rent. They finally found a spot at 137 Route 46
West, just two miles from their other businesses.
Early this month, they e-mailed customers of their other businesses
to say they were looking to buy kids’ gear–and got hit with a deluge
larger than that waterfall at Dynamite Falls. “The first person through
the doors brought 22 bins,” says Kim Schmidt. “It took me three hours to
go through it all.” Unlike consignment stores, Once Upon A Child
franchisees buy the merchandise brought in, using a computer system that
tells them what to pay and what the resale price should be. The
carefully arranged racks could contain high-end brands like Burberry and
Abercrombie, and current styles from a wide range of labels. You’ll
also find new items like car seats, strollers, accessories and Melissa
& Doug toys.
Right now, the Schmidts are only buying from the public. If you have something to sell them, bring it to the store
from Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4
p.m. and Sunday, noon to 3 p.m. Depending on how much you are bringing
in, they will either tell you immediately which of your items they will
take and how much they will pay for them, or get back to you quickly.
Once Upon A Child does not accept stained or torn clothing, or items
that have been recalled. “We are very rigid about safety,” says Erin
Schmidt. For the record, the former special education teacher never
thought she’d be an entrepreneur, despite the prediction of a high
school aptitude test. “They kept saying, you’d be good in business, and
I’d say, ‘I’m going to get a degree in psychology’.”
In July, the Schmidts will throw open their doors to start selling
all the treasures they have accumulated. They are planning tent sales
for coats and costumes in the future, and they will be offering customer
loyalty cards and discounts to day care centers and nursery schools on
books. And perhaps mostly importantly in this economy, the Schmidts are
hiring. If you’re interested, drop them a note by e-mail.