April 16, 2012
Chaffee Braithwaite Expands Her Baby Biz in Buckhead
By Nancy Staab
- Photos by Colby Blount
b braithwaite boutique may have moved from Westside to bigger digs in Buckhead, but it still offers one of the most chic and curated baby experiences in town
Chaffee Braithwaite, of b braithwaite baby boutique, reinvents the baby store yet again with her expanded and refined new Buckhead location. The new West Paces Ferry Road store is next to the equally posh Huff Harrington Home and Drybar, and a rattle’s throw away from St Regis Atlanta. Think: immaculate, streamlined, all-white NYC loft— filled with all things chicly baby-related such as David Netto baby cribs; mod Bloom high chairs that look as if they were designed by Eero Saarinen; plush teddy bears, soothing blankets and bib bars, precious baby clothing in pink and blue coordinated sections, books galore, gifts, gear, toys, and even a hairbow bar for the girly girl. And the new improved b braithwaite isn’t the only baby that Chafee’s juggling. The working mom and resident baby whisperer can often be found bouncing her own adorable baby boy, Erich, on her hips! Erich has even tested and “approved” some of the store’s wares in this family business that also incorporates Chaffee’s famous, interior designer mom Nancy Braithwaite (she’s regularly featured in glossies like Veranda magazines) as a creative consultant.
Together this stylish mother/daughter team has reinvented the baby store from top-to-bottom with their meticulous attention to details like shelf width and merchandise tags--replacing the overwhelming clutter of, say, a Toys R Us, with the oasis of calm that characterizes the b braithwaite boutique. Their wares are carefully curated for items that are equally stylish and practical for baby and mother alike. It’s no wonder the shop has become a destination for out of towners, while yuppie parents-to-be from New York to California to Texas flock to the online store. And for lucky local residents, just look for the giant topiary bear and bunny signaling entry into the most blissful baby boutique on the planet.
b braithwaite, 102 West Paces Ferry Road NW, Atlanta, 404.869.8665 or www.bbraithwaite.com, open Mon.-Sat. 10AM-6PM
INTERVIEW WITH B BRAITHWAITE OWNER CHAFFEE BRAITHWAITE
What was the initial impetus for the new shop and location?
We strive to create an experience that is relaxing, fun and enjoyable. Our Howell Mill Road store in Westside was originally designed to showcase nursery rooms. As our product selection increased (furniture, bedding, clothes, books & toys, gear, strollers, bath, and gifts), we soon realized that we needed more space!
Our new Buckhead location allowed more room to organize our departments so they are easier to shop; more open space for clients to navigate with strollers; and a much larger toy section that allows little ones to feel comfortable exploring new books and toys.
Our clothing selection is also now organized into two rooms--one for boys and one for girls, and we now have additional space to showcase hair accessories, little pick-me-ups and personalized gifts.
Tell me about some of the fun things you have added in your new space.
It was so rewarding to design the store with Mom [noted Atlanta interior designer Nancy Braithwaite] because we were both so thrilled about the potential! She was most excited about what she calls her “back feature wall” - a huge wall where she’ll be able to showcase her amazing visual talent with beautiful and unexpected displays. (Right now we have a seven-foot circus bear balancing on one hand upside-down on a ball!) I was most excited about our new book nook. I adore children’s books, and I loved creating a space where children and adults could get lost in their favorite stories.
This is one of the most detailed oriented, well-thought-out shops in terms of design and aesthetics. Can you share a little bit about how you and your designer mom collaborated on the vision for the new space?
Mom and I are a great team. We approach the store from two distinct perspectives but with the exact same philosophy. While we both believe that everything should be sweet and simple, she approaches everything from the design side, while I approach it from the business side.
We’ve done our research too. From Paris to New York to Los Angeles, we’ve studied not only baby stores, but great retail environments in general.We tore out pages of things we liked, and through it all created our own vision and style.
Mom created a layout and traffic flow that gave our clients an experience that was approachable, organized and enticing. We then organized the product selection. We both agreed that each category needed its own space and quickly decided where each category should be- making sure that as clients walked through the space, the product offering built upon itself. When clients first enter the store, they’re welcomed by yummy, plush blankets, and comfy chairs, with the hope that they are immediately comforted by their environment. We never want our clients to feel overwhelmed, so the distinct rooms give them a chance to take in each product selection, digest the information, and move to the next.
We also wanted the new store echo the look and feel of the old store, but still feel fresh. We stayed true to our all-white space, believing that pure white best showcases our products and provides a calming experience. Mom also elevated the architecture of the store--higher walls, narrower portals, and larger display walls.
In addition, we introduced photographs of children to the space. We worked with the amazing photographer Alice Park to capture our clients’ little ones playing with some of our favorite items. The best part of the photographs is the children are the stars, rather than the product.
I believe the photographs tell you a story about our vision- a beautiful family is about simplicity--a little one playing with a wooden toy is sheer delight!
Can you explain your original concept for b braithwaite and why it’s so unique?
The last six years have been quite a journey for my mom and me. To be honest, we started this shop knowing almost nothing about retail. Somehow, we found our footing, surrounded ourselves with great advisors, and realized we had a strong vision for our brand. Our philosophy has always been the same: everything about a baby should be sweet and simple.
Through that journey, however, our business plan adjusted. Our original concept for the store was to offer full nursery room designs and customize them to each client's needs. While that concept was successful, I found our clients were always asking me to help them choose other items for their house and little one---which stroller did I like, have I seen this swaddle blanket, what do I think of this bathtub? Our clients were asking me to help them, to guide them, and to hold their hand through this anxious time. So we expanded our product selection to offer what we felt were the best products, in terms of style, function and value, for everything a family needs to care for their new baby.
You don’t need 100 bottles, 3 bouncy seats, 12 parenting books, and 36 pacifiers to make your little one (and ultimately you as a parent) happy. The simpler the better, and a little “ooh” and “ahh” can’t hurt either!
I know you have always had the baby love (years of babysitting and many nieces/nephews) and now you are a mom yourself. Why did you gravitate to the baby business in first place and then how has it changed since becoming a mom?
Believe it or not, the baby business chose me. Mom and I had originally planned on opening an adult furniture store. In Paris on a buying trip for our new venture, the plan fell apart. The next day mom was walking along the left bank and came across a beautiful baby store, Ovale. She came back and said, what about a baby store? One thing lead to another, and a year later we were opening b braithwaite!
The funny part really is that I have always loved children. As my husband would say, nothing makes me happier then hearing a little one giggle-- it doesn’t get better than that for me. I think in today’s environment it is so easy to get caught up in the stuff that we think is going to make us the perfect parent or the must-have product that is going to make our child that much smarter. The pressure to be a good parent can be intense and your friends, family and even strangers are constantly giving you advice on what to do. I whole heartedly believe that the most important part of my job is to remind our clients of three things: that their instincts will always guide them in the right direction; that many times, less is more; and to truly enjoy the journey. Becoming a mom only strengthened those beliefs for me.
Believe it or not, our product selection didn’t change after I became a mom. I still believe in the products we offer--I just believe in them more now because I’ve personally used them with my son Erich.
Can you talk a bit about future plans for the space or the business: growing online, possible additional brick and mortar stores or a future private label?
We are constantly thinking about our future. Our current focus is continuing to grow our current store as we adjust to our new space. We hope to update our online site in the next year to bring the online experience more in line with our new store experience. And we would love to one day create our own collection.
Tell me a bit about your audience. I know you are also a destination store for visitors from nearby cities like Birmingham and online you have a huge national following.
I feel so fortunate to have the client support we’ve had over the last six years. Through the move, our clients have been nothing but supportive and excited for us.
We really appeal to two different audience groups- expecting mamas and their mamas. While our expecting clientele has graciously moved with us to our new space, we are seeing a lot more grandmamas in our new space. We also see a lot of traffic from neighboring states in store (Alabama, Florida, the Carolinas, etc.), and we hope the St. Regis Hotel will add to that list. Online, our client loyalty comes from California, New York and Texas.
Any parting piece of advice for expectant and new moms?
Most expecting parents have dreamed about this time in their life for years. Enjoy it. Keep it fun. Involve your family and friends. But when making decisions, create the family environment that you envision for yourself. You’ll have lots of opinions thrown at you about what you should do, but you only get to do this a handful of times in your life (if that)--do what makes you and your partner happy.
If you envision a contemporary nursery room with black and white stripes, go for it. And if you just really need to have that stroller (that perhaps is not the most practical buy, but you’ve always wanted it), allow yourself the indulgence-- it’s okay!
Remember this time in your life is really about you and your new family- enjoy every second, it’s an amazing adventure.
Chaffee’s Top Ten b braithwaite Baby Picks
Sweet pea hat: Nothing says baby to me more than this hat. It represents everything I believe in---sweet, simple, and beautiful quality
Mom’s on Call book: My bible! Their guidance is right up my alley--- easy to follow
Aden and Anais muslin swaddles: They are lightweight and you can use them for everything--as a blanket, nursing cover, swaddle, burp, on-the-go
Bloom highchair: While the pricetag may be high, the comfort and functionality of this highchair will have you missing it anytime you use another highchair!
A white glider chair: White is bleachable and goes with everything. More importantly, our chair has been the home of so many memories- late night feedings, story time, snuggle time…..
Kissy Kissy anything! (An adorable baby clothes label)
Any children’s book: They make everyone happy!
Netto Cabine crib: It suits our house style perfectly--- beautiful, quality, and a simple design.
Baby Bjorn carrier: It’s so easy; I took mine everywhere
A great monitor: It gives me a peace of mind to know I can check on our little guy without disturbing him
Baby Erich’s Pick:
Wubbanub pacifier: Don’t leave home without it!
b braithwaite, 102 West Paces Ferry Road NW, Atlanta, 404.869.8665 or www.bbraithwaite.com, open Mon.-Sat. 10AM-6PM
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