When Emma Enman’s daughter, Charlotte, was learning to crawl, she had bruised, carpet-burned knees and was wearing holes in her pants. Enman decided to sew kneepads into a few pairs of her tiny leggings to provide her daughter with a little comfort.
Since she didn’t have a sewing background (just a quick lesson from her grandmother) Enman was surprised when other parents began raving over the padding leggings.
“People kept asking where I got them and then if I could make a pair for their baby, too,” says Enman. “I knew it was a good idea and I wanted to share it with other parents.”
She started researching the children’s clothing market and learned there wasn’t anything similar available. There was also a lack of comfy, Canadian-made baby and toddler clothing, so Enman took her sketches to WearWell Garments in Stellarton. The manufacturer had never tackled a children’s line but was happy to partner with Enman on the prototype knee-pad pants: the aptly-named Neezies.
She put her background in communications and PR to good use, and began working full-time out of her New Glasgow home. Enman launched Neezies’ online shop in the spring of 2015 and the clothing is also carried in shops across the province, like Moments Boutique (Truro), Biggs & Little (IWK Health Centre in Halifax), The Outdoors Store (Baddeck), Fox Harb’r Resort (Wallace) the WearWell Garments Company Store (Stellarton), and 10 Lawtons locations.
Today, Neezies is shipping across Canada and sells three different styles of knee-padded pants (classics, lounge pants, and diva leggings) as well as a variety of tops and hoodies. Everything is made of super-soft cotton blends so little ones have comfortable play clothes that are made to last.
The young mum of two says her customers consistently tell her they’d rather spend a little more on quality, locally-made clothing than keep re-buying three-for-$10 pairs of baby pants from a big-box store. She’s in the process of expanding Neezies to include larger sizes (like 3T, 4T and 5T) since so many of her loyal customers are outgrowing their current pieces.
“People love the products but they also like the story behind them,” says Enman. “They know that buying local means supporting local jobs here in Pictou County.”
Andrea Munroe runs Enchanted Forest in downtown Truro, and she’s noticed a critical shift in what parents are buying for their babies and toddlers.
“When we opened seven years ago, we catered to a niche demographic that was looking for products like cloth diapers and natural, locally-made skincare,” says Munroe. “But now it’s gone mainstream and there’s a huge demand for green products.”
Enchanted Forest carries locally-sewn cloth diapers, clothes, bonnets and bibs, as well as organic skin care and nursing pillows made just across the border in New Brunswick. But Munroe says a lot of Colchester County parents focus on buying baby products that are green on different levels.
Sometimes it’s a matter of how a product’s made (and what it’s made of) and other times it’s just about supporting a locally owned shop because it’s keeping their money in the community.
She says it warms her heart when customers inquire if she carries a particular product because they’d rather buy it from her than online or in a big-box store.
“Small businesses struggle to compete with Amazon, which can offer far better pricing, but people are really starting to understand that if they want their towns to be vibrant and thriving, they need to support their small businesses,” says Munroe.
For many modern parents, Munroe says it’s important to buy a few quality multi-purpose items that can be used in different ways, rather than filling their cupboards with dozens of cheaper items that will get broken or tossed.
“We have a baby bottle that converts to a sippy cup, a straw cup and a sports water bottle so it can be used at least eight to 10 years.”
Reusing is the name of the game at Bubble Tree Baby Boutique in Stellarton. The children’s consignment store is the brainchild of Lesley Otter, a mom of two.
When she gave birth to her daughter in 2008, she says she had no idea how quickly her baby would outgrow her clothing. She was living in Halifax at the time and began shopping at second-hand stores, but when she moved home to Pictou County she couldn’t get the same deals. It was a light bulb moment for Otter, who opened Bubble Tree Baby Boutique in the fall
“I could tell at first that some people were not into shopping secondhand, but they changed their minds quickly when they saw my store,” laughs Otter. “Everything is checked over carefully for stains, hung, steamed and organized by size. My customers get ‘like-new’ clothes for a fraction of the price.”
Otter says preparing for a baby can be expensive and she doesn’t think financial stress should hamper such a wonderful experience. People may have wrinkled their noses at buying secondhand 10 years ago, but now she says it’s “the trendy thing to do.”
“Just the other day, I sold a crib, crib mattress, and complete crib set (blanket, sheets, curtains, accessories) for $110 to a young couple expecting their first child,” says Otter.
“They were so thrilled they didn’t have to spend their whole budget on these essentials and could save money for things they’ll need when the baby arrives.”
Customers also bring in their children’s outgrown clothing and re-sell it through Bubble Tree, receiving 50 per cent store credit (or 40 per cent cash) on the transaction. Since the shop also sells second-hand toys, books and baby gear, Otter says bringing in all of their gently-loved items means they’re getting an even better deal on their purchases.
Bubble Tree Baby Boutique also carries locally-made items like booties, mittens, hats, blankets, bibs, necklaces, prints, and aprons so area crafters have a place to sell their creations.
“More and more people are appreciative of the quality and uniqueness of these locally-made items, especially when buying a baby shower gift,” says Otter. “They like giving something extra-special that you couldn’t find in a big-box store.”
Creating a green nursery
- Check out nearby second-hand stores (especially ones specializing in kiddie products, like Bubble Tree Baby Boutique in Stellarton) for play clothes, sleepers, onesies and even larger gear like exersaucers and bouncy seats. You’ll be getting a great deal as well as supporting a local business.
- It’s exciting to pick out a beautiful colour for the nursery walls, and maybe even paint a dresser or bookcase to personalize the room, but don’t forget that certain paints can give off harmful fumes for months after the walls are dry. Phillips & Chestnut Victorian Salvage & Decor in downtown Truro has Canadian-made VOC-free paint that’s designed for safe use in nurseries.
- Instead of stocking up on bibs, burp pads, crib bedding and changing pads at a department store, check out local craftspeople to see what they’re selling. Small businesses like Gale’s Home Sewing (at the Truro Farmers’ Market every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.) have beautiful, unique pieces and even offer custom orders.
- Buy new items – like bottles, breastfeeding supplies and pacifiers – from a locally-owned shop if possible (like Enchanted Forest in downtown Truro). Yes, they may be a few cents cheaper online or in a big-box store, but your purchase will be much more appreciated.
- Keeping with the buy local theme, don’t forget about some of the great baby products at some of your favourite stores. My HOME Apparel sells onesies ($15) featuring their famous “HOME” design as well as Nova Scotia tartan bow headbands ($8).
- Your little one will be crawling before you know it! Stock up on soft, high-quality outfits from Neezies (designed in New Glasgow and made in Stellarton) and feel good about supporting two local businesses at once.