CEDAR RAPIDS — As owner of Baby Time, a family shop in Cedar Rapids, Kristen Mead has the opportunity to connect with families very early on.
Baby Time got its start as an online boutique, offering cloth diaper supplies, in April 2012. Mead was working as a doula at the time — providing physical and emotional support to mothers in labor.
“A lot of my clients were wanting advice on various parenting things, especially cloth diapering,” she said. “I was pointing them to other places to shop online, so I thought, why not give it a try?”
She started selling cloth diaper supplies online. Mead said the venture was successful enough that she decided to open a bricks-and-mortar location near Lindale Mall.
Now, five years later, the shop has relocated to the NewBo neighborhood — to the Kurik House on the corner of Second Street SE and 11th Ave. SE. And since moving in April, Mead said they’ve seen positive response.
“Our exposure down here is much better,” she said. “I didn’t have walk-in traffic before, and now every Saturday morning more than half the people who come in are new.”
The diapers, which were once such a mainstay of the business, now occupy a side room in the historic home that serves as Baby Time’s retail space. Over the years, Mead has expanded her product offerings to include gifts for new mothers, toys — for infants and up through toddlers and early elementary students — clothing and blankets. A large section at the front of the store features items made in Iowa.
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“It’s fun to have pregnant customers come in and watch them grow because some stop in after all of their doctor’s appointments,” she said, noting that Baby Time offers a gift registry option for expectant moms.
A mother of three, Mead’s background as a teacher and her work as a doula help inform her day-to-day work running the shop. While she has a couple part-time employees, Mead handles the accounting, ordering, sourcing new products, social media and the website.
“I have families come in with a problem or an issue they are having, and I so enjoy helping them through that,” said Mead. “I’ve had people come in in tears. And if I can’t fix it for them, I’ll make sure to connect them with someone who can.”
Baby Time offers a variety of classes, meant to help children and their parents to connect.
“We are building community here,” she said, noting that they offer a baby-led weaning class, a music class, a cloth-diapering class, an essential oils class and girls-night-out events just for moms. “Offering these classes and building community are what sets me apart from big-box stores.”
Those big-box stores can make owning a small business such as Baby Time challenging, Mead added.
“The baby industry is really changing, even in the five years that I’ve been open,” Mead said. “Everyone seems to buy online now.
“Here at Baby Time I teach my customers how to use diapers and it can be frustrating if they turn around and order them on Amazon. ... I love helping families and the internet just can’t do that for you.”
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At a glance
• Owner and doula: Kristen Mead
• Business: Baby Time
• Address: 1024 Second St. SE, Cedar Rapids
• Phone: (319) 531-6401
• Website: http://www.babytimeia.com