Children’s Orchard Rowley is a Family Business for Families

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Children’s Orchard Rowley: Family-Owned by Three Generations of Women

By Emily Cowan

Thirty years ago, an Ipswich grandmother named Maureen started a local business she hoped would help her children and grandchildren – and it’s still going strong. We caught up with her daughter Steph Johnson and granddaughter Jamie, now owners and operators of Children’s Orchard Rowley, to find out more about the family business and how things have changed since Maureen opened that first store.

Newburyport Macaroni Kid: How did your family get into the kids’ consignment business?

Steph: My mother got into the business almost 30 years ago after meeting the owners of the Newburyport store, before it was a franchise. She had just had her third grandchild (Jamie), and loved the idea of recycling for future generations. She opened her first store in Ipswich, and we were there for ten years before moving to Rowley.

MK: What’s it like working with your mother/daughter?

Steph: I loved working with my mom. We worked well together for 20 years before she retired. Now I have my daughter working for me I think we work well together. It is great having flexibility.

Jamie: I started working here as a teen after school and weekends. I took a few years off after graduating college, but I hated my job! So I came back to help my mother with the online outreach and advertising.

Working with/for my mother is great. I’m always learning new things from her, and I feel like she is learning from me as well. There is also the convenience factor of working for her. If I’m sick or need the day off, she works for me and vice versa.

Also, we each enjoy different seasons. She loves the winter and I love the summer, so if she wants to ski on my day off I work, and if I want to go to the beach on her day off she works for me. Working together has helped my brothers out too because if they need someone to babysit one of us is always available.

MK: Thirty years is a long time! Has buying and selling kids’ clothing and equipment given you any insight into parenting trends over time?

Jamie: I’ve been working part-time in the store for about 15 years, and I have noticed a lot of changes. The internet has made parents much more product-savvy. When grandparents come in they don’t go for name brands, they just know the item they want. This generation of parents knows what brands they want specifically, so we carry more of those.

Other changes are driven by changing guidelines and pediatrician recommendations. For example, we no longer sell bedding because it’s not recommended in the cribs. Instead, we sell more sleep sacks to keep the kids warm. Product recalls also play a huge role in what we are allowed to buy and sell.

MK: What do you most enjoy about working at the store?

Steph: I love the flexibility of working for myself and working with family. At the end of the day I have real peace of mind.

Jamie: I love helping new parents or grandparents. When they come in all stressed out about what to buy, I enjoy pointing out what items sell best. When they are trying to decide between strollers or baby equipment they think their child will like, I give them my honest opinion. Sometimes I sell them the cheaper of two items because I know that product will work for them – it isn’t always about the money.

When someone comes in and says “it’s my first time here, my friend just told me about you,” I feel like we are being successful. We are a small, locally owned business and we rely on high-quality inventory, excellent customer service, and word of mouth to stay afloat.

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