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Check out this week’s “Store Spotlight” with The Toggery in Little Rock, Arkansas. So what is the meaning of “toggery”? Phil Olinghouse, owner of The Toggery children’s store tells us about what The Toggery means to him and about his fun “Elf on the Shelf” blog type items, where he shopped as a kid, and the evolution of his store since its inception in1948.

 tog·ger·y  (tg-r, tôg-)
n. pl. tog·ger·ies
1. Clothing; togs.
2. A clothing store.

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The Toggery in Pleasant Ridge Town Center

1.     What is one fact about your store that a typical customer wouldn’t know?
Phil: The number of hours that Penny (my wife) and I put in trying to respond to the needs of our customers. We spend untold time on special orders and special requests.

2.     What sets you apart as a successful children’s store?
Phil: We have been able to relate to the needs of our customers, and make every effort to supply those needs in a timely manner with a fair price that provides good value. We have consistently provided service that focuses on our customer first and foremost.  

3.     You probably have seen hundreds of mommies and daddies come through your store and hear them speaking with their children – what is the funniest or sweetest thing you have heard come out of a child’s mouth recently?
Phil: No talking allowed at the Toggery, I don’t know. (wink, wink) 

4.     Are you a Little Rock native? Describe the neighborhood your store is in for us.
Phil: 
Penny and I both grew up in Little Rock. Our Heights location is where  The Toggery started in 1948 and we have been in the same location since 1962. This is a wonderful old neighborhood where we know our neighbors. The shopping area has always attracted customers from all over the state of Arkansas because of its reputation for unique upscale shopping. On the other hand our Pleasant Ridge Town Center store, which we newly opened in January, has reinforced our commitment to that part of our city. This has been the center of growth for a number of years and we have been a part of west Little Rock since 1978.

4.     What type of clothing did you wear growing up as kid? What tip would you give to a parent dressing a child? Do you have a picture of you as a kid you can share with us?
Phil: My mother dressed me at JCPenny, Sears, and the Crystal Kiddie children’s shop. Pretty traditional stuff – who can remember that far back? I think mothers today should focus on unique clothes that reflect their taste and lifestyle. Remember quality clothes last longer and look better longer. 

5.     We love your blog –what is your daily inspiration for your blog entries? How many bloggers are on your team of writers? What has been your most popular blog item?
Phil: Last June we formed a web team whose mission is to enhance the presence of The Toggery on the Internet. The three young people that work on this project bring a ton of enthusiasm and energy to their job. Caroline Tyler, a creative writing graduate student writes our blog. She has had an incredible response. Our team brainstorms at our weekly meetings and she brings these ideas to life. This team also markets our store through e-mail and Facebook campaigns. My favorite promotion was last Christmas when we had a contest to name your elf, based on the “Elf On The Shelf” book. The response was incredible and the creativity of the names our customers had was incredible.

6.     You have a great selection of items to buy from your store from clothes to shoes to uniforms to books! What is your favorite children’s book and why?
Phil: My favorite book is “On The Night You Were Born” by Nancy Tillman. This book gets right to heart of what you want a child to hear early on. It is a wonderful story that should be in every library.

7.     If you had one piece of advice for someone entering children’s retail today, what would it be?
Phil: Be extremely focused on what you want your store to be. Listen to your customers and never forget you are there to serve them in an extraordinary way. Last, always have a planned buy and do not overbuy. More stores fail because of how much they buy, rather than what they buy.  

8.     What is your best or most memorable moment in your store?
Phil: I think when Penny and I had our first grandchild and got to clothe her (and the four that have followed) has been memorable and meaningful. They have certainly rejuvenated and stimulated our buying. That was 10 years ago and we are a much better store because of them.

9.     What collection or piece from Le Top or Le Top Baby line do you love from the Spring/Summer 2010 collection?
Phil: We loved the boys Choo Choo Zoo collection from Le Top Baby. It was pure Le Top, traditional and very special for our newborn boys. And the best part was it sold great!

The Toggery
5919 R Street
Little Rock, AR 72207
501.663.8662
http://www.toggerykids.com/
http://www.facebook.com/Toggery

The Toggery
Pleasant Ridge Town Center

11525 Cantrell Road Ste. 405
Little Rock, Arkansas 72212
501.227.8492
800.207.8691

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Image by: Jemal Countess/WireImage

Project Runway judge and Marie Claire Fashion Director, Nina Garcia, is expecting her second child with husband David Conrod this coming December.  The baby will be joining big brother Lucas Alexander, 3-years-old. We here at Le Top can’t wait for the new winter baby, as well as her 4th book, Nina’s Garcia’s Look Book: What to Wear for Every Occasion coming out this August! Cheers!

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Paulo and Miranda in le•top's 2009 Deck The Halls Collection

It’s that time of year to visit Jolly Ol’ St. Nick and hopefully get a great snapshot of your children as they whisper to him what they want for Christmas. This year, Miranda asked for books. Books? Yes, she seriously asked for books. She’s so practical—even Santa Claus was in shock! (Last year she asked for clothes, and she most certainly received tons of beautiful clothes from a special Santa.) As for Paulo, this is his first Christmas and first photo with Santa. I was hoping to see some tears or a hint of fear in his eyes, but he sat comfortably on Santa’s lap without a care in the world. If he could talk and tell Santa what he wants for Christmas, he would probably ask for a shoe to chew on or an electrical outlet he can poke at because Mommy won’t let him near these things.

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le top babyThere is one similarity with all recessions – when it is over a baby boom hits!  I have 8 friends expecting and Jamee is waiting for 14…so I would say “It’s beginning to look a lot like …the end of a recession!”

This new ‘generation’ of post-recession parents has their own set of ideas.  We have a legion of moms that want to do the right thing, and to achieve that goal they are diving into a pool of information that is limitless.  It is easy to get lost in a sea of books that tell you everything you ever needed to know about child rearing.  I decided to narrow down this vast list of books on parenthood because it seems overwhelming to a new mom-to-be (I’m not there quite yet, but it pays to plan ahead!)  I sat down with a group of my “mommy” friends to quiz them about the books they have read, and which ones ended up on their ‘recommended reading’ list.  Here is the list and their reasons why they are their top choices.

belly-laughsBelly Laughs, by Jenny McCarthy: All the mommy readers of this fabulously funny book agreed on three things:

1. It will make you laugh

2. It presents the ‘real life’ details of pregnancy

3. AND…NOT TO READ THIS BOOK UNLESS YOU ARE ALREADY PREGNANT OR YOU MAY NEVER WANT TO HAVE CHILDREN!

yourpregnancy

Two books tied as a weekly guide to pregnancy:  What to Expect when you are Expecting (Arlene Eisenberg, Heidi Eisenberg Murkoff, Sandee Eisenberg Hathaway) and Your Pregnancy – Week-by-Week (Glade B. Curtis, Judith Schuler).   Both of these books feature the week-by-week detailing of pregnancy and are written with short chapters for the mom in a hurry.what to expect

Rachael (expectant mom to Amara) says about “What to Expect…”: “My favorite part is once a week I read what stage the baby is at with my husband, to see how much she has grown, along with what symptoms I may look forward to for the month”

On Becoming Baby Wise (Gary Ezzo, Robert Bucknam) has become a very important tool for a couple of my closest mommy friends; they ALL swear by its teachings, and go “by the book”.  Baby Wise teaches parents to schedule their new baby’s routine around the parent’s daily schedule as much as possible.  This book points out that the baby is coming into your life, not the other way around.  Regarding Baby Wise Erin (mommy to Emma) has this to say:

“BabyBaby Wise Wise is great for getting your baby to sleep through the night within 8 weeks.  It is very important to stick with it and to be consistent with the scheduling.  It provides a method of feeding on a schedule, but also lets you be in control.  It creates an “eat, play sleep” routine and helps your baby to thrive.  It has worked wonders for me as a new and first time mom and I love the structure it has instilled in my daughter.  She doesn’t need to be rocked to sleep for naps or at night, all I do is lay her in her crib and she is asleep with in 5 minutes- no screaming or crying. I love it- but you have to stick with it!!!”

Val (mommy to Spencer and Grace) said this about “Baby Wise”:

“One book I swear by, Baby Wise (and all the books in the series,) is truly a routine we followed to get both kids to sleep, on their own, at a VERY early age. Most people who come over to our house are stunned and amazed at how our kids take naps and go to sleep with little or no fussing.  We literally lay them down when it’s time (this is key), and they fall asleep on their own.”

Things have changed from the days of Dr. Spock, but one thing seems to ring true throughout all of these books- scheduling is your key to a quiet first year and beyond.  What books have helped you survive this wonderful, but challenging first year?  I am sure all those expectant moms out there would love to have feedback from you ‘pros’ – after all…it IS the end of the recession!

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baby-bookThere are so many baby reference books out there, it’s hard to pick which ones to read. And with a newborn, who has time to browse through all the books out there? A lot of it has to do with your parenting style. My personal favorite is “The Baby Book” by William Sears, MD, and Martha Sears, RN. I found that their philosophy matched mine, and it has become my Bible.

With my first born, I had a very difficult time getting her to sleep in her crib. She would cry the moment she was placed in it. It didn’t matter how long I let her cry it out (which was so painful for me to bear), she would only scream and cry louder. I tried all the tricks, such as making the bed warm, or adding an article of my clothing to make her more comfortable. Nothing worked, and NO ONE got any sleep. Then I stumbled on this book.

I like how the Sears authors approve of co-sleeping. Their argument is, “Why should the entire family be sleep-deprived, when you can all sleep soundly in one bed and wake up refreshed?” So true! Of course, they also recognize that each baby is different and that each baby has different needs. One might love to sleep in his own crib because they are sensitive to the movement and sounds of others, while another baby might feel secure being near her parents. Either way, this book doesn’t condemn any method. The authors just make you feel comfortable in the choices you make as parents. (Note: I’ve heard the disadvantages of co-sleeping, and that my daughter will never sleep in her own bed ever. I’m happy to say that was never a problem. She slept in her own bed when she was about a year old, and she still sleeps in her own bed.)

What baby books do you use? We’d love to hear what you recommend.

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There are so many ways to record your baby’s life and milestones. My mom kept a baby book for each of her children, and till this day, I treasure it! In fact, I love reading and comparing my development with my daughter’s development. My daughter started eating solid foods at 6 months, yet my mom had me eating steak and chicken at 4 months! Boy, have the times changed.

This is probably overkill (either because she’s my first child or I’m an over-achiever) but I have a baby book, a website (updated monthly), and several scrapbooks for my daughter. I can’t seem to stop recording her life! My husband asks every time I have filled yet another scrapbook, “So what are you going to do with these scrapbooks?”

Me: They’re mine! When she moves out and goes to college, I’m not giving these to her. I’m keeping them. These are MY memories.

Husband: So when are you going to stop scrapbooking and updating her website?

Me: When she’s graduated from high school. No. When she’s finished her doctorate. Wait! After she gets married. Uh… maybe when she has children. I don’t know. Don’t ask.

Do you do the same or am I just insane?

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Sorry I keep finding out about this stuff on the late-ish side! I hope there’s still time to make plans for attending this tonight, for those of you who are interested!

What: You’re invited to the third quasiperiodic Bay Area Kid Lit Drink Night!

Who’s invited: Everyone interested in children’s literature.
Publishers, agents, booksellers, librarians, authors, illustrators, etc.
All our favorite people.

Do: Tell all your friends. The more, the merrier.

Don’t: Come to pitch projects to agents or editors or show sample art to designers, etc.
This is a chance to *socialize* with others in the children’s book field.

When: Tuesday, February 17th / 6:00pm

Where: John Colins 90 Natoma St, SF. Cocktails are available at the bar, and people
are welcome to bring snacks, books, and gossip for sharing.

L’chaim, sante, cheers, etc.,
Melissa Manlove
Chronicle Children’s Group

Editor’s Note: If you have baby/kid related events in your community that you’d like to share with us on le•top blog, please let us know!

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