Homemade gifts spawned biz idea

[attach]5834[/attach]When Clare Raman needed a gift for a birthday party and couldn’t think of anything to buy, she wound up designing her own plush doll.

“Everybody loved it so for every birthday I always made another doll,” she says.

Last September she decided to branch out from her background in jewellery design to focus on making children’s clothes and dolls, and opened Kid Culture on Dundas Street West at Pacific Avenue.

She says she uses any scrap material from creating her coats, which come with little plush critters in the pockets, to make more dolls for the store. In addition to her own line, she stocks other locally made clothing and accessories for babies and kids up to age 12.

“My jewellery was all made with old and new put together, so the coats are done from a 1950s’ vintage pattern,” she says. “The linings are all vintage, the buttons are all vintage, so it’s sort of old and new again. It’s the same theme that I like.”

Although she opened on a whim, she says she wanted to be situated in the community because it’s home and her parents live nearby.

“The Junction is sort of up and coming,” she says. “I just feel comfortable here. It’s nice to get to know the neighbours.”

Raman, who was used to running her own company since she first started the jewellery line Buttercup Days in 1989, says she was inspired to transition to kids stuff after her daughter Amalia was born. A major perk of being her own boss, she says, is being able to spend time with her while on the job.

“I love the fact that I can have my daughter here,” she says. “She’s four so she’s often here in the morning or on the weekend.”

While she was coming up with the concept for the store, which has classic piano keys on the wall, she knew she wanted it to be kid friendly so she added a play area, a harp and a ramp leading to the front door.

“I just want them to feel good here and to have a fun experience,” she says. “And kids love it, like they see the ramp and they just walk right in.

“Usually when you come into a children’s store you’re dragging your kid in so to speak, but people are literally dragging their kids out,” she added.

Raman says she’s lucky to be able to work with great local designers like Things Aren’t So Terrible, Tiny Modernist, Jack and Willa Designs and Rare Birds Clothing because they come to her with great merchandise.

“I just never know what’s going to walk in the door and it’s amazing what the designers bring,” she says. “Like everything that comes in the door is amazing so I’m just really fortunate.”

She says one of her neighbours also recently contributed to the store when she brought in vintage skirts, vests and shorts.

“Her mother-in-law always wanted to have a boutique, probably in this area, and she never did because of illness and now her stuff is being sold so that’s kind of nice,” she says.