“Beware the Jabberwock, my son! / The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!”
The warning comes from Lewis Carroll’s famous poem, “Jabberwocky,” in which readers are warned against a fearsome creature. But a couple in Crestwood is hijacking the word in the hopes of making people relate it to something more pleasant.
Ben and Alison Smolin opened Jabberwocky Kids after they noticed an increase of young children in the area and a lack of places to find affordable children’s clothing. “When we first moved in, there weren’t really a lot of kids at all, and now there’s tons of young families and tons of kids,” Ben said. “It was kind of cool to see the neighborhood grow. … We kind of wanted to be a part of that.”
The kids’ consignment shop opened in April, and despite a lack of marketing, the Smolins said that the reception has been good. Inside, colorful clothing, toys and books fill racks and shelves. At any given moment, the stereo is playing either local music or the soundtrack from the movie Frozen, which is the favorite of the Smolins’ daughter, Sage.
“We played in local bands, and I still play a lot,” said Ben, a local singer-songwriter (featured in Weld in June 2016), explaining the message on the wall that reads “we only play local music.” While Ben now works at El Barrio and as a youth director at St. Thomas Episcopal, he said that music was a big part of both his and Alison’s lives. “We kind of wanted to support the local artists,” he added.
Supporting local is a priority for the Smolins, who also offer free beverages from local coffee shops and breweries to their customers. They are also offering a 10-percent discount for any local business owner who brings in a sticker for what the Smolins hope will become their “sticker wall.” “Like every small business, I think to survive you have to be pretty community-minded,” Ben said.
Another way that they strive to be “community-minded” is simply by offering the community a pleasant shopping experience, they said. “We just want to make them happy,” Alison said. She explained that the main goal of the store is to provide affordable clothes and a place to resell merchandise. “Or just play, too,” she added. “Because … it’s nice to have a place where the kids can just be okay to be kids.”
They hope to set their store apart from other consignment shops by offering prices comparable to those of thrift stores and by creating a different environment from chain stores, which don’t offer the opportunity for negotiating.
The store is the first venture into the world of retail for both Ben and Alison, and the experience has presented them with new challenges. When it comes to the more difficult aspects of running a new business, they are figuring it out together. “That stuff’s really a learning curve, but so far, it’s been a good experience,” Alison said.
All in all, they are optimistic that the venture will be a success. “Obviously, retail is pretty tough right now,” Ben said. “But the only sector of retail that’s actually growing and doing really well right now is second-hand clothing.” He added that there is a “potential to do well,” and that they would be open to the idea of eventually expanding.
But first, they are focused on making the people within their own community happy and giving parents a reason not to “beware the jabberwock.”
Jabberwocky Kids is located at 4911 Fifth Ave. S. and is open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, follow them on Facebook or call (205) 703-9767.