Day 213: Play Clothes

Play Clothes
Photo courtesy of Play Clothes

Whether you have kids or not, the most fun store to visit in downtown Manistee is Play Clothes.  Even though they specialize in clothing for kids (up to size 10), they also have a selection of toys, accessories, and other fun things.  “We’ve had people come in and buy gifts to give to 70-year-old friends,” says owner Sarah Alden.  “Our clothes fit kids up to about age eight, but if you’re young at heart, we have no age limit!”

Play Clothes
Photo courtesy of Rhonda Greene

Sarah and her husband Travis moved to Manistee three years ago when he was offered a position as director of Manistee’s Downtown Development Authority.  They had the idea of opening a business before they moved to Manistee, but they were waiting to do it in the right place.  “Opening a small business, you put down roots in the community that are unlike anything else,” she explains.  “We though about it, and we decided that this is where we want to stay.”

For the first three years after the move, Sarah worked as an attorney.  Meanwhile she and Travis, who have no prior retail experience, made a business plan and sought guidance from others in the community.  Play Clothes opened Memorial Day weekend in 2011, and Sarah left her law practice to run the store full-time.

Play Clothes
Photo courtesy of Rhonda Greene

Why a kids clothing store?  “There are a lot of reasons,” Sarah says.  “We really wanted it to be a family business, and we have two little girls, so fun toys and clothes seemed like a good fit. It’s a fun, happy place to be.  We wanted to make it a place where we would want to go, and where we would want to take our kids.”  The Alden girls –ages  2 and 5– are already involved, serving as product testers, models, and even as spokeswomen; the happy voice exclaiming “Play Clothes!” in their television commercials is that of their older daughter.

From the very first order they placed, the Alden’s were conscientious of costs.  Aware of the perception that shopping downtown is expensive, they wanted to make the store accessible to as much of the community as possible.  “We only carry high-quality merchandise; we don’t sell anything we wouldn’t use ourselves or buy as a gift.  Some of it is definitely high-end, but we also have little toys as inexpensive as fifty cents.”

They offer as many products that are made in the USA as possible, including a variety of Michigan-made items.  Their most popular line of products is from Ann Arbor-based Constructive Eating; other Michigan-made offerings include handmade blankets, tutus, and a wide selection of hair accessories.

The store also hosts in-store events like Bookies & Cookies (a story hour with refreshments) and Shrinky Dink Saturday (featuring a fun make-and-take craft project).  “I love having kids in the store,” says Sarah.  “I love seeing how kids play and what they play with.

Play Clothes
Photo courtesy of Rhonda Greene

As the business grows, Sarah enjoys watching her clientele grow as well.  “We’ve been open long enough now that we’re really getting to know our customers and their kids.  It’s been great to get to know the community on a first-name basis.  That’s what it’s all about – the customers and kids.  We even got a Christmas card from a customer in Illinois.  I was blown away!”

Sarah says that she’s glad they chose to open their store in Manistee.  “It’s been a really nice transition from living in the community to doing business in the community.  The other merchants have been very welcoming, and the community support has been great.  So many of our customers feel like family now. It’s been one of the most unexpected and nicest things about starting a business in Manistee.” ~Rhonda Greene, Feature Writer
Play Clothes
345 River Street
Manistee, Michigan 49660
(231) 398-9450
Website:  play-clothes.com
Play Clothes on Facebook

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