CLARKS SUMMIT – Adorable Me Children’s Boutique is a small store of about 900 square feet shaped like a rectangle. The diminutive size means the managing partner thinks carefully before she adds an item to the inventory. And the tight fit also requires traveling salespeople to move carefully within the store’s narrow aisles when showing merchandise.
“It’s very interesting to watch,” co-owner Michele Brown said of the salespeople. “They’ll park their vehicles and they’ll bring in rolling racks. They’ll go out to their cars, fill the rack, and then roll it back into the store.”
Other sellers have outfitted recreational vehicles as mobile showrooms. They pull into the parking lot of the Talbots retail plaza, at the corner of State and West Grove streets and Brown steps inside to view the goods. Twice a year, she travels to New York City in search of new clothing for infants and young boys and girls.
No matter how she sees the merchandise – in her store, outside in the parking lot or while attending shows in Manhattan – Brown has a process for placing goods on her wish list. She has learned to quickly look over an item, put it aside and then to go through the pile a second time before deciding whether to add an article to the racks and shelves of Adorable Me.
“We sell unique higher-end brands that are hard to find,” she said, adding she considers apparel from Joules and Florence Eiseman to be two of the store’s top lines.
Sales of infant clothing account for the largest segment of revenues, according to Brown. The store carries items for girls up to size 16, and size 8 for boys.
A shoe section was added to Adorable Me last fall. Brown said many customers had asked her for footwear so they could complete an outfit by shopping in one place.
“I’m very limited with the shoe brands that I have because I focused on the very durable, well-constructed ones,” she said.
Brown is a mother of two, a 6-year-old daughter and a 3-year-old son. She believes her customers benefit because she is raising youngsters at the same time she is running a store that sells children’s items. It allows her to kid-test products in real domestic situations.
“The industry is constantly changing,” Brown said. “They’re always coming out with new ideas for clothing items, toys, whatever.”
Children are the reason Brown ended one career, began another and later opened the store. Before she had her first child, she spent 15 years selling media advertising. While home with her newborn daughter, she began making hair bows, dresses, gowns and costumes for children, selling the products online and in select local stores.
“I think I just have that salesperson mentality,” she said. “You know, ‘What can I do to make some extra money?’”
By late 2015, as the online business continued to grow and Brown made more frequent trips to the post office, she decided to move the operation out of her home and into a storefront. The owner of Luna Bleu, a children’s boutique, had announced she was winding up the Clarks Summit shop. Brown visited the store and immediately called the landlord. Adorable Me opened in November 2015.
“She closed her doors at Luna Bleu and I opened them three weeks later,” Brown said. She employs three people to help run the store. When Sunday hours were added recently, Adorable Me became a seven-day enterprise.
“If people need things, we just figured to be open as much as we can,” Brown said.
The boutique competes in a crowded segment of retailing. Baby clothing occupies many square feet in various big-box stores, and fills many pages in online marketplaces. Brown understands she must give existing customers a reason to return to her shop, and entice new customers to come through the door.
“It’s important to me that we carry numerous price points,” she said. “I do have higher-end, pricier items. But I also try to find ones that aren’t so much, and are quality products.”
Infant outfits cost from $35. Dresses are priced up to $130.
Brown still makes the hair bows sold in the store, but dress and costume manufacture is now limited to special orders. She has a local woman monogram the bows and socks. Another woman hand-paints birth announcements.
“It’s not a huge part of the business, but I really love just having something here that’s so unique,” Brown said.