Connie’s In The News
Articles & Interviews
As the only retailer to win Retail Alliance’s coveted Retailer of the Year Award for Chesapeake THREE years running, Connie’s Kids, Ltd has shown great stamina and even growth in a very uneasy & unpredictable economy. Optimism abounds in this small boutique where the periwinkle walls & racks are laden with adorable outfits for babies from birth to early teens. The “Ooohs & Aaahs” abound as new customers enter the store. Connie jokes that she should have named the store “Isn’t That Cute?” because that is what everyone says the minute they enter. You immediately get the “small town” feeling, being greeted with warmth & friendliness no big box store can match.
From free gift wrapping, hand painted bags, and casual conversation it is no wonder Connie’s Kids has not only outlasted the competitors, but has surpassed all expectations. Photos of hundreds of past customers modeling their outfits are displayed on the walls, which is now taking on new meaning as these children return to dress their own children from Connie’s Kids.
For over 23 years Connie’s Kids has dressed not only the children of Chesapeake & the Hampton Roads area, but for the last 14 years has been clothing children all over the world being a strong presence on the internet. Over 1000 customers peruse connieskids.com daily which has doubled the business in recent years. Staying in touch with the times while still maintaining the traditional feel of Connie’s Kids is a delicate balance, but Connie’s Kids has just hit facebook & customers can now upload photos of their children modeling their outfits, as well as share stories, post comments & suggestions.
Founder & owner, Connie Todd says it is just another way to keep in touch & find out what her customers are looking for. Responding to the customers needs, Connie has expanded her flower girl & ring bearer selection, as well as carrying more shoes and soft knitwear that the young mothers of today are craving. Connie believes in “dressing children like children, not miniature adults”, so only soft color pallets accented with smocking, appliqués and hand-work are found in this classic baby boutique. These styles are guaranteed “hand-me-downable”, so when a mother or grandmother makes a purchase they can rest assured the item can be worn by more than just one child.
Feeling a strong community tie, Connie’s Kids donates generously to the local charities with either clothing or gift certificates for needy causes. Connie’s Kids will also be holding free children’s book readings over the summer months that will be open to the public. Some will have the actual author come to read the books as well as sign them for the children.
Breathing new life into the store lately is Connie’s 26 year old daughter Lindsay, who encourages her mom to branch out with styles the new moms are looking for while still keeping within the classic looks. Connie welcomes the fresh outlook Lindsay’s experience as an art teacher & graphic designer brings to the table and the enthusiasm she has for the business. One day she may take over the business completely, and Connie would consider that the highest honor. In true entrepreneurial spirit, Connie’s 23 year old son Jesse embarked on his own mission of owning a business by opening an off-road shop for trucks called Farmboy Fabrications. Connie is proud of instilling the “can do” attitude in her children more than the pride she takes keeping her own store thriving for over two decades.
Connie believes a positive attitude is more powerful than many marketing or business degrees, although those would have helped things run much smoother in the beginning! With a degree in psychology & a background in radiology, business was a foreign language at first. Learning the hard way thru necessity is sometimes the best teacher. It seems like a lifetime ago when she was carrying her baby clothing to peoples homes & work to sell her items, but the long road has been well worth the struggles. A belief in yourself, your products, and your customers is essential for success.
Connie refuses to let the state of our economy dictate her business plans, and even entertains the thought of opening a second location. Entrepreneurs are the foundation of America. They must be eternal optimists or they would never make it out of the starting gate. Focusing on what you love, what you do well, and going after it is truly the American Dream! For Connie’s Kids that has been the secret of success.
Retailer to Retailer
by Ashley Trent
In an unassuming strip mall in Chesapeake, Va., lies Connie’s Kids, a mainstay in the Hampton Roads area for nearly 25 years. With classic clothing and a clientele spanning generations, this go-to boutique celebrates the innocence of childhood.
But owner Connie Todd was not always a retailer. Her success story begins in the ’80s when she was working as an X-ray technician at Chesapeake General Hospital. One day, she saw a sign announcing a shopping center opening across the street from the hospital. "I started thinking about how wonderful it would be if someone put a baby shop there, because the hospital was getting ready to open up a new birth center," says Todd. "I realized I’d found a way to do something different but continue being involved with children and the hospital."
Todd began honing her selling skills through at-home parties. "It worked out to be a great starting point, because I was able to establish inventory and develop a customer base right away," she explains. Two years later, she purchased a 1,500-square-foot space in the mall and opened for business.
A strong believer that "children should be dressed like children," Todd gravitates toward soft colors and handmade details. "We appreciate heirloom-quality pieces that never go out of style and that can be handed down," she explains, adding that Connie’s Kids supplies basics, playwear and dresswear for newborns all the way to pre-teens. Todd attends the Atlanta Apparel Market to find "southern, traditional-looking" items from stalwarts such as Le Top, Petit Ami, Bonnie Jean and Feltman Brothers.
The continuity of tradition at Connie’s Kids is a comfort to shoppers. "I hear moms and grandmas come in every day who say, ‘This is the same dress I bought my own daughter when she was young!’, which speaks to our ability to stay relevant," explains Todd. "People come in and thank us for keeping the classics alive; we’re a trusted source."
A bulletin board proudly displays photos of satisfied customers. "The photo board really is part of our history," says Todd. "When customers donate pictures of their children wearing something from Connie’s Kids, they get 20 percent off their purchase. It started as a fun promotion but turned into a way to show how we’ve stayed the same all these years."
The sincere customer service at Connie’s Kids has helped the shop receive a Best of Hampton Roads honor every year since the awards began nearly 20 years ago. The store is also the only two-time consecutive winner of the Retail Alliance’s Retailer of the Year Award.
Although her methods have demonstrated success, Todd is tweaking her business to keep in tune with customers’ changing needs. "We’ve been partnering with young entrepreneurial women in the area to get some fresh ideas," she says. Todd’s daughter, Lindsay, has helped solidify the Connie’s Kids brand and make cosmetic changes to the store and its Web site. "For more than two decades, I had been doing the same thing over and over," says Todd. "Lindsay began noticing inconsistencies that I never even noticed, and she started giving me new ideas."
Todd is eager to see how Connie’s Kids will improve with the enthusiasm of her daughter and local businesswomen. "They are so inspirational. I appreciate that they’re shaking me up and helping me try new things."
The friendly staff at Connie’s Kids is always eager to help visitors find just the right gift. The result of this top-notch customer service, says owner Todd, is a loyal customer base.
Connie Todd, owner of Connie’s Kids (www.connieskids.com), shows off a cute ensemble. Her shop has supplied traditional children’s clothing to the Chesapeake, Va. area for nearly 25 years.
Located in a shopping center across from a hospital, Connie’s Kids is a convenient stop for finding gifts, clothing and accessories for newborns. The store also boasts returning customers, as it offers classic items for babies, children and ‘tweens.
Connie Todd says “Dress them well...they’re only little once.”
by Laura Michelle Bjork
In 1993, Connie Todd’s brother Bob insisted she jump on the technology bandwagon, and he created a website for her flourishing business, Connie’s Kids. She wasn’t interested."I owned a boutique featuring beautiful clothing,” Connie laughs at the memory. “I sold children’s items, not computers. And we were doing well. A website? What was that? I thought he was crazy.”But Bob was persistent. “He kept telling me I had no choice, that the whole world was going digital,” Connie smiles at the memory. “I finally agreed. I didn’t like it, but I finally agreed.”
She started with a page, a static picture of the shop and only one item of inventory: a hand-crafted bonnet. “By today’s standards,” Connie reflects, “it was pretty archaic. But it was a beginning. And it was mine.”
"Our location is so perfect, so convenient.
With our proximity to the Interstate,
our customers from throughout
Hampton Roads can hop in their cars
and be here in no time at all.”
And it worked. Connie received a call. Then another. And another. Soon, it was time to add more pages. And time to call her brother.“He was right, I admit it,” Connie laughs. “I’m sure he never tires of hearing that.” What originated as a simple effort to join the digital age exploded into an award-winning, recession-proof strategy for Connie. Now in her 23rd year as sole proprietor of Connie’s Kids, a charming boutique that specializes in unique, classic children’s clothing, Connie — and her customers — have learned to embrace the technology that has catapulted this generation into the 21st century.
“Once I saw the results that a simple, no-frills web page could produce, I realized I had to get active,” Connie asserts. “That first website doubled my business. It opened my eyes to new ways to operate, and new ways to maintain meaningful relationships.” She took social networking classes. She joined Facebook and Twitter. She blogged. And she discovered something about herself along the way.
"I love technology!” Connie exclaims. “I absolutely love it!”
The many relationships she’s established through the internet caught the eye of the marketing gurus at Willbeth, one of the vendors Connie’s worked with for more than two decades. They decided to contract their upcoming children’s clothing catalogue to her, and for that she would need models.She started her model search on Facebook and word spread like wildfire. Her phone rang off the hook and her fans on Facebook grew by leaps and bounds.She and Chesapeake photographer Jim Knox are almost finished with that first catalogue and it’s just about time for another model search."This is so exciting for so many families with children,” Connie says with her characteristic enthusiasm.
Technology has brought customers from all over the world to Connie’s Kids through the website. There, they find one-of-a-kind flower girl dresses, boys’ overalls and traditional play clothes, adorable Christmas pajamas, christening gowns, tailored winter coats, suits, ties, bonnets and bows, all transporting both casual and serious shoppers back to a time of childlike wonder.
Locals, though, are the really lucky ones: they can stop in and see these beautiful items in person.“Our location is so perfect, so convenient,” Connie points out. “With our proximity to the Interstate, our customers from throughout Hampton Roads can hop in their cars and be here in no time at all.”
She keeps the store open until 8 p.m. during the week and 6 p.m. on Saturday to make it even more convenient for busy moms, grandmoms and doting aunts (and uncles) to stop in for just that perfect item.She appreciates the ease with which her customers can peruse her entire inventory at the click of a button. She treasures the enthusiastic testimonials from clients from all over the world. And perhaps, most of all, she cherishes the close relationships she’s been able to form and maintain over the past two decades.
The closest business relationships she’s enjoyed over the years are the ones with her own family. Connie’s mother, Joan Crane, hand crochets the beautiful shawls and sweater sets that grace the displays in the charming boutique. Before he passed away, Connie’s dad constructed all the shelving units for the shop. Connie’s daughter, Lindsay, a graphics design major, nursing student and new mom, assists with buying trips and staging since she has a great eye for what young moms want.Bob Gibson, Connie’s boyfriend of nine years, proofreads the website additions every night. Connie’s devoted staff of seven ladies helps her with the day-to-day business. And 24-year-old son Jesse, a successful entrepreneur himself, is a constant encouragement for his mom.
Though Connie is grateful for the support from her wonderful staff and family, she remembers a time when few thought she could “make it” in the children’s clothing industry. “When I started, most people told me why I wouldn’t succeed,” Connie reflects. “I heard all the statistics on failing businesses. I was an x-ray technician. What did I know about running a business? Or about fashion? I grew up in Catholic schools wearing uniforms all my life. But after having kids of my own, I saw a need for affordable yet timeless clothing for children, and I knew I had discovered my passion. This is my business and my life. I’m so lucky!” And now that this Long Island native has mastered the ins and outs of surfing the web, she’s using her techie know-how to connect her customers like never before.
One of Connie’s features on her Facebook page is the “Kid of the Month Contest” link. Click on it, and a customer can submit a photo of a child donning a Connie’s Kids outfit. “Everyone loves this contest,” Connie says. “And so do I. The winner receives a $25 gift certificate toward a Connie’s Kids purchase. The fun part is really seeing your child or grandchild’s picture featured prominently on our site.”
As a new grandmother herself, Connie can attest to the joy of shopping for the next generation.Now that Connie’s Kids has bridged the gap between the classic style and the modern age, Connie is dedicated more than ever to preserving the personal touch that has endeared this business to Hampton Roads. Free gift-wrapping and hand-decorated merchandise bags are just two simple reminders that Connie’s Kids is, and always will be, devoted to the customer. And its involvement in fundraisers benefiting charities such as Head Start and a local crisis pregnancy center is one way Connie’s Kids shows its commitment to the community.
“Every time I walk in here,” Connie says, glancing around the store, “I smile. It’s just a happy place.”Happy and thriving. For three years running, Connie’s Kids has won Retail Alliance’s coveted “Chesapeake Retailer of the Year” Award, an honor that makes Connie beam. How does she feel after accomplishing so much in 23 years? Connie smiles and answers with a twinkle: “You can check us out on Facebook.”