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McClatchy-Tribune  08/16/2014 11:34 PM ET
Columbus Ledger-Enquirer Job Spotlight column [Columbus Ledger-Enquirer :: ]

Aug. 16--It's one of the oldest retailers in Columbus, having opened its doors downtown in 1936 before various moves to the malls, Main Street Village on the north side, and its current location in the Bradley Park shopping area.

So there had to be at least a little pressure when Tiffany Yarbrough made a decision to buy the Rollins Way store in January, less than six months after longtime owner Rick McKnight had sold it to another party, a move that did not work out.

"I would say there's definitely pressure," Yarbrough, 29, said during a recent visit to her store. "People want to see the Kiddie Shoppe around and I think people want to see it succeed. I certainly do."

The Hatchechubbee, Ala., native and Columbus resident draws some of her business sense from one side of her family that operated a lumber company for years, and another that put roofs on houses, with residential property management in the mix as well.

Yarbrough also had worked with Kelly's Kids, a Tupperware-like children's clothing business with home parties, for five years. That experience gave her a good feel for her world now at the Kiddie Shoppe.

That has included shopping months ahead of seasons at a "mart" in Atlanta, with Yarbrough returning not long from buying clothing she will sell next spring and summer. And that with the autumn leaves not having begun to turn yet.

She has help from her six part-time staffers and husband, Josh, a commercial lending officer at CB&T of East Alabama, who jumps in whenever possible to ease the load on his wife, who also happens to be a mother of two young children, ages 5 and 2.

"Poor thing," she says of Josh, chuckling. "He's a commercial lending officer by day and a Kiddie Shoppe employee by night. He goes to the mart with me when he can get off work. And even at lunchtime, he comes to help. It's a family event."

The Ledger-Enquirer talked with Yarbrough about her job, its challenges and fun aspects, as well as the prospect of keeping a business launched in 1936 by a local couple named Philip and Ada Pomerance not only surviving, but thriving. McKnight had owned it since 1991.

This interview is edited for length and clarity, with an expanded version available at www.ledger-enquirer.com.

Would you say you're trying to gain momentum?

We're still trying to get (the store) back where it's supposed to be. I don't know exactly what happened. It just hasn't been the Kiddie Shoppe that people expected it to be in the last year or so. I think it was probably just a change of owners. That and you have to set up all of the accounts with the vendors and everything else, and I think that can hurt things a little bit.

Rick had a certain zeal for the business and a connection with customers?

Exactly. It's just having to build those relationships back up. They have no clue who I am. Thankfully, just in the last eight months, we've gone from customers not having a clue who I was to them calling and saying: Pick out an outfit for my child, or pick two outfits and I'll come in and choose between them. They have that trust now, knowing I'm not going to pick out something crazy.

Or some of our older customers who can't make it into the store will call every now and then to order a gift without actually coming in the store to shop. They just say: I want to spend 60 bucks, pick out a baby gift and wrap it for me.

You do that personally?

We all do it. I'm here everyday. The only time I'm out of here is if I'm sick or have an event with one of my children, or at the market. But I'm here everyday, all day.

Did you have any other retail experience before this?

It was just the Kelly's Kids. I know that this sounds crazy, but that did prepare me for the seasonal stuff. That's because I think a normal person coming into retail wouldn't have a clue about certain things, like the fact that we are just coming back from market buying for next spring, and fall (merchandise) is just now hitting our floor.

 

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