By Shana Liebman
Smoochie Baby almost didn’t make it here. Penelope Stipanovich, a Toronto native, originally chose to open her innovative kids store in her hometown where her family has been in the manufacture and retail business for years. Thankfully, she and her husband eventually decided to find a more suitable home for Smoochie (and themselves)—Williamsburg. “There is a vibrancy and an energy here that Toronto lacks. I have heard people in Toronto say that a place has a ‘Williamsburg vibe.’ That kind of sums it up.”
And Williamsburg is kissing right back. The Berry Street store, which opened in 2009, is bright, modern and tasteful “with an urban edge & a rock n’ roll sensibility,” says Stipanovich. “Mostly well-priced American brands and very few imports.” And a brilliantly placed, kid-tuned TV makes it a lot easier to shop.
Smoochie Baby (what Stipanovich and her husband called their son Max when he was a baby) is expertly stocked with gorgeous, practical stylish clothes and the kind of smart gear you can really use—a wearable blanket big enough for a one-year-old for example. There are no garish colors or cheap plastic; the books and toys are attractive and educational. They even stock Nevermind Your Ps & Qs. The Punkrock Alphabet.
Stipanovich’s current favorite item is Shwings. “I’m obsessed with Shwings. They are little wings that attach to any sneaker. They make any shoe ‘fly.’” She also loved the one-of-a kind Lola & James dresses and tees made from vintage rock tees, especially one black tank dress made from a Rolling Stones 1972 tour tee with purple tulle skirting around the bottom. “I cried when the company closed down.”
Smoochie carries a line of bath and skincare products for mommy and baby that is all natural and made by Stipanovich’s mother-in-law up in Canada. Also from Canada, the cutest straw fedoras for the summer. Another popular hat is the lumberjack beanies with a removable crochet beard that they couldn’t keep in stock. For spring, hand-made Majorcan sandals are on the way. In other words, you want this woman dressing your kid.
“We are working on a tight little private label collection of basics,” says Stipanovich and this spring we will be launching our new website with a fresh new look and a lot more product.” Is a second store in the works? “It’s still a couple of years away but it will most definitely be in the ‘hood.”