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There are no clowns in the new baby boutique at 900 Chicago Ave. The stuffed animals are hand-knit, the color scheme muted rather than loud. There is a
lending library and a classroom/lounge – and no maze for cash-register lines.
Adeline’s Room takes its name from the first name of Modernist author Virginia Woolf. Her 1929 essay, “A Room of One’s Own,” inspired Christine Kim when she was an undergraduate major in literature and women’s studies at Dartmouth College.
The store reflects a seriousness of purpose in an atmosphere of calm. Ms. Kim founded it in recognition that having a baby – starting a family – is a life change so fundamental it can challenge even the strongest of women.
She watched many of her colleagues in the business world struggle to find the support and information they yearned for in this crucial transition. Then on Nov. 10 she extended a hand to women like them, opening Adeline’s Room as a “boutique for baby, learning community for moms.”
It is for her the realization of a dream. “I always wanted to create a space for women,” she says.
Ms. Kim envisioned Adeline’s Room as an alternative to the chain megastores, where the glut of merchandise – and dearth of assistance – has the potential to overwhelm the most capable expectant mother. Though Ms. Kim has incorporated learning, community and product components into the business, she says she believes it is “the learning that differentiates it.”
There is plenty of grown-up talk about babies here – but no baby talk. Since Ms. Kim perceives the need for busy contemporary women to have convenient access to information, the store will begin in February to offer a variety of classes relevant to pregnancy, birth and family. Instructor Ami Burns, a Lamaze teacher and certified doula, will teach an “Introduction to Birth Options” as well as a one-day childbirth class and a session on “Comfort Measures for Labor.”
Ms. Kim says she plans to offer future classes on topics like finance, career transition, healthy cooking and even nursery design in the comfort of the store’s spacious lounge.
A fledgling lending library offers store patrons a chance to sample free of charge a range of up-to-date books on pregnancy, birth, babies and family. Conscientious here as elsewhere in the store, Ms. Kim has done the homework, indicating on each cover a book’s popularity by its star rating from online bookseller Amazon.
She confronts another issue for new moms – isolation – with her ongoing series of Mom Meet-ups. These casual get-togethers, she says, are designed “for women to get out of the house, meet other moms and bring their young children to a safe, engaging environment.”
She acknowledges moms’ need for community, saying, “Starting a family is one of the most exciting and fulfilling changes in a woman’s life. It is also a brand-new experience unlike any other, which often causes women to seek out information and other women who have gone through similar experiences.”
As for products, Ms. Kim has set out, she says, “to offer carefully researched and hand-selected basics for baby.” Here she says she believes “not being a mom has helped. I had to find what works for a large number of people.”
She accomplished that by conducting extensive Internet research, scouring product descriptions and reviews before purchasing. Various areas of the store are devoted to the likes of bathing, bedtime, toys and learning, breastfeeding and baby clothing.
There is a sound machine that replicates the sound of the mother’s heartbeat and a twilight ladybug and turtle that project constellations onto the nursery ceiling. All-organic muslin swaddling blankets, cozy sleep sacks and a chemical-free organic crib mattress and bedding promise to keep baby safe and comfortable.
The store stocks the hard-to-find Ergo carrier and has been known to lend out its Moby slings for moms and dads to try. Samples on the floor are used for demonstration. “We’re a service business,” says the owner. “We want to provide a service that improves the lives of our customers.”
Ms. Kim knows it is all too possible to clutter a house with stuff for a baby. In the toy department as elsewhere, she is aiming for functional items that last. There is a DVD with slow-moving black and white graphics set to calming music to give newborns patterns to look at. Handmade wooden toys from Michigan are both handsome and sturdy.
There are no big-name clothing labels. Among the carefully chosen baby and toddler clothes are items made by a woman from Oak Park.
Pregnant women will find the Bella Band, a useful way to adapt regular pants for a growing belly, along with full-size body pillows to make sleeping easier
There are Boob shirts, cleverly designed in Sweden for nursing mothers, and Boppy pillows to prop up babies for feeding. Ms. Kim says she believes the growing number of women entrepreneurs is leading to better designed products for mothers and babies.
Her tenure as a management consultant inclined Ms. Kim in the direction of a business that serves women. She says she expected women her age to respond. The surprise, she says, has been “how [Adeline’s Room] resonates with women of all ages. Older women feel very enthusiastic,” she says, which leaves her wondering. “Does the store meet their daughters’ needs?” she asks. “Or do they wish they had had such a place?”