Storefront Turned Playground
By Sara Bruskin | photos by phil mumford
Going to a store with young children in tow can be daunting at best, and an Olympic-level endurance test at worst. Parents have to prepare themselves for epic multitasking as they check prices, make sure nobody breaks anything, and figure out who’s crying and why, all while fielding sidelong glances from store staff and fellow shoppers who are less than thrilled with the commotion.
When you’re traveling in a pack, finding a welcoming and understanding retailer can be challenging, which was part of the inspiration for Clothes Pony & Dandelion Toys—a place where goofiness is encouraged and glitter tattoos are the height of formal wear.
Jenny and Becca Bramhall, sisters and owners of Clothes Pony, brought the Fort Collins favorite to town in 2016 to offer support to the families of Boulder. The sisters spent 14 years learning from their first store before opening a second location very dear to their hearts. “Opening the Boulder store was a longtime dream for us, as our father was born in Boulder in 1926,” Becca says. “His father taught at CU. Our parents met in Boulder, and though we were raised back East, we spent our summers in the mountains above Boulder. Jenny attended CU, and we find Boulder to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world.”
Jenny and Becca continue to seek out beauty in the products they carry, and search for unique items of clothing that deviate from the generic graphics so prevalent in children’s clothes. A new line they’re carrying—Tea Collections—epitomizes these standards: Its designers travel to new countries twice a year to learn from different cultures and let international beauty inspire their clothing designs. Such thoughtful care can be seen in all of the products at Clothes Pony; the sisters go to a book market every January and read every new children’s book there to find stories that will mean the most to their customers.
Safety, Shoes & Socializing
While visitors love the store’s lighthearted atmosphere, they also appreciate how seriously the sisters consider safety and sustainability. “The safety concerns within the toy industry several years ago acted as a catalyst for companies to pay close attention to the materials and processes that they use,” Becca explains. “Toys today are probably safer than at any other time in history. Having been in business for 14 years, we have identified companies that we have great confidence in and others that we choose not carry because we have concerns about their practices.”
With safety and sustainability in mind, the sisters make an effort to stock environmentally friendly items made with organic materials whenever possible. Since one of the best ways to prevent waste is to buy items that retain value for a long time, they look for high-quality clothes and toys that can be handed down and enjoyed for years. This focus on quality and safety stands out especially prominently in the sisters’ attention to shoes. Kids outgrow footwear so quickly that keeping up with it can feel like a Sisyphean task, but the staff at Clothes Pony is specifically trained to help parents navigate this mountain. Ill-fitting shoes can set children up for a lifetime of joint issues, so buying quality footwear and getting expert help with fittings is a sensible investment.
In sourcing products that measure up to their high standards, Jenny and Becca are always excited to work with local manufacturers like Motherlove, Yoee Baby, Amber & Haze, Thirsties, Little Locals, Waba Fun, Begin Again and Zio Kids, to name a few. Supporting the local community is at the root of the sisters’ business model, and was actually their initial inspiration for opening Clothes Pony. As mothers themselves, they wanted to create a supportive environment where kids and their parents could get to know other families.
“It may sound strange for a retail store to have building relationships at the core of its mission,” Becca says, “but we know how isolating raising young children can be. We wanted to be that place where families could come and relax, knowing that their children could play with everything and make a mess and be their quirky little selves.”
Clothes Pony & Dandelion Toys (303-442-2083; www.clothespony.com) is located at 1909 Ninth St., Boulder 80302. It opens most days at 9:30 a.m., and closes at 7 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, and 5 p.m. Sunday.
Martine Conway, one of Clothes Pony’s dedicated patrons, says she is “always impressed by the friendliness and attentiveness of the staff to her children and her.” Jenny and Becca have endeavored to create a store that isn’t just for buying kids’ products—it’s a store for kids where everyone feels welcome. It’s a place for fun and hugs and giggles where you can curl up with a book to find the answer to one of life’s great mysteries: “Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots?”