Tell us about you!
My name is Kate and I was born in very rural Vermont. I moved to the city about 12 years ago and after a few years I fell in love with Greenpoint! I met my husband here in Brooklyn. We have one son, Henry, who is four years old. We also live with a very grouchy cat named Sandwich and a sweet rescue pup named Tilda.
The Wild is more than a beautifully curated shop; it's a community hub for parents. How did you come to open The Wild and what has been the key to cultivating that sense of community?
I purchased The Wild three years ago, when my son was 10 months old (a lot to take on for a new parent in retrospect). I had gone to the store when it was Wild Was Mama when I was pregnant and a new parent, and the space was so important to me. It was a destination when I just needed to get out of the apartment as a new parent, and it was a safe space to nurse Henry, to change him and to ask questions. I took pretty much every class they offered: Childbirth Education, CPR, Choosing a Baby Carrier, Music classes, and the super important lactation support. I don't know what I would have done without the space.
When I heard the store was closing or selling, all of the parents I knew were wondering where we would all go and what there would be like for parents in the neighborhood. We were all so sad about it, so I just said to myself, "Maybe I can do this." I decided to take the leap of faith and quit my job in the interior design world (which, by the way, was very unsupportive of me having a baby, including getting fired for being pregnant and then getting a job that I had to pump in a bathroom. Sadly, so many of us have these stories, and we try to talk about them in our classes and discussions.)
So, in a way, there was already the community; someone just had to step in and keep it going. When we re-opened as The Wild, I added a bunch more classes than were offered and edited the products considerably to reflect the needs of our community and make sure things are ethically made, environmentally friendly, and giving back. I trained as a postpartum doula as soon as we bought the store, because I wanted to be able to best support our community and to train my staff on how to hold space for new parents.
You had only been open for a couple of years before the pandemic hit. How did you and The Wild survive Covid?
Honestly, it was really hard, and we are still struggling. We've been so sad about so many of our neighbors and friends having to shut their doors permanently. Being a small business during the pandemic has been such a challenge. We started off doing just curbside pickup and we worked our way back up to an almost normal schedule along with everyone else. We put in place a lot of safety requirements including limiting the number of people in the store and number of employees in the store. We temporarily closed our bra room and paused letting customers try on all of the carriers, which has been such a bummer, since we are all passionate about babywearing and are all babywearing trained. We love to work with new families and it has been hard not to hold babies in the shop or help adjust carriers and do bra fittings etc... We pushed through to stay open since we knew we were a vital resource for parents in the neighborhood and people were counting on us. We still have those great conversations, they are just masked now or via DM on instagram. Finally, we’re almost back to our pre-pandemic behavior and very happy to be feeling more "normal".
For our business to survive this last year we had to make a lot of hard compromises and evaluate every aspect of the business. We had to pause on adding a lot of new lines that we had been excited about bringing in and stick to some of our staple products that we know everyone needs. Especially in the beginning of the pandemic we stocked up on cloth diapers which were in such high demand, and disposable diapers. Also, we got extra formula, bottles and necessities like laundry detergent, menstrual supplies, and diaper creams. We cut back on some clothing and added more toys like puzzles and playdough knowing that so many kids were stuck inside. We tried to support our vendors--who have been so awesome and who are also small businesses--by continuing to place orders with all of them and limit our expansion. We had big plans to revitalize our backyard and many other things in 2020 but those things were paused. Now, finally we are moving from survival mode to planning mode.
Have you seen your neighborhood or community change over the last year? What has that looked like?
We definitely have seen our community change. Much of our community left the city and moved to shopping online and the community space that our store offered necessarily had to change too. On a positive note though, we gained a lot of support for our store online and from out of state. Our virtual class offerings have been full of new parents from all over the country. And many more international orders! With spring and the vaccine, we are excited to see so many familiar faces back in the city again.
Now that your doors are open again, you have a calendar full of events! Tell us about your most popular classes or groups.
Well, we have kept our virtual classes going throughout the pandemic, and we are looking to start up in person again in July! (Fingers crossed that all goes well with Covid rates). One of our most popular classes is always Childbirth Education, taught by our education partner Birth Smarter. It is such a fun, informative, empowering birth class. I really love to see the transformation of expecting parents who go into the class so nervous, and at the end they all look relieved and happy.
Our support groups are AMAZING and so popular. We have a pregnancy support group and two support groups for the birthing person. We also have a group I love for the Birth Partner or Dads that is co-led by my husband, Jake Gardner, and Ashley Brichter of Birth Smarter. It is such a wonderful space for the non-birthing person to talk about their feelings, fears, excitement and how to support their partner. We’ve also added a bunch of toddler classes, including Potty Training, Welcoming a New Sibling and Toddler Emotions taught by Melina Gac Levin, M.S.Ed. When we have in person classes our Music classes are always packed! Can't wait to bring those back.
What is the best thing about being a shop owner? Any tips for aspiring retailers or boutique owners?
The best thing is the community. I have had such amazing conversations in the shop where I really connected with someone and we truly had a moment. It is super rewarding and really has taught me so much. I've been there for the first time someone nursed their baby in public, I've taught grandparents how to put on a stretchy wrap for when they visit to help out with the new baby, I've even seen a baby's first steps in our store - nothing compares to these very real vulnerable first moments in a parent and child's life, and I love being there for it.
I also love curating a collection of items that I feel are better alternatives for parents and better products to put out into the world. Where you spend your money really is a vote for or against something, and I am proud of the brands we carry. I do a lot of research to make sure that what we are contributing is a healthier, more ethical or more sustainable product.
My advice for aspiring retailers would be first: spend time carefully picking your team. My team has fought for this store and loved it like their own, especially our store manager Victoria Tartaglione, who we wouldn't have survived the pandemic without. My other advice is that you have to stay true to yourself. Everyone has opinions and it is great to hear them and take time to process them but you have to ultimately listen to yourself. Identify what is really important to you, and make sure you are making yourself proud and enriching your community if you can.
Finally, why Kibou? Why does it make sense for parents in Greenpoint, Brooklyn?
I love carrying brands that are family-owned and woman-owned, and I want to support other small business owners who are also working their butt off for something they believe in. Kibou is a mom-owned brand, developed here in Brooklyn out of necessity and love, so it fits right in with our other brands. We love to carry brands that make a parent's life easier, and Kibou is definitely one of these. A great, minimal diaper bag that is perfect for an urban parent or just parent on the go. I love that Kibou gives back by donating 1% of every sale to support mothers and children affected by incarceration. Lastly and also very importantly, it is VERY stylish and our Brooklyn community is some of the most stylish and discerning people out there. We are so excited to partner with Kibou!