We’re big fans of Lulu’s Cuts & Toys; Jasper and Magnolia go there for haircuts (we book with Jennifer) and it’s our go-to spot for birthday presents, too. So I was psyched to see the news over on A Child Grows in Brooklyn that Lulu’s was expanding yet again – first there was Cuts & Toys, then recently Lulu’s for Baby, and coming soon: Lulu’s Then & Now, a chic but affordable re-sale shop for kids’ clothes.
I caught up with owner Brigitte Prat recently to ask how she juggles 3 businesses (!) and being mom to a 15-year-old. Here’s what she had to say.
So, you own Lulu’s Cuts & Toys and Lulu’s for Baby and you’re about to open Lulu’s Then & Now. How did you wind up mistress of a Park Slope mini-empire?
I moved to Brooklyn in 1998 when my daughter, Lulu, was 3. We used to travel to a place on the Upper West Side to get hair cuts – it was a real destination and activity for us. Lulu loved it so much she’d remind me, “Mom I need a haircut!” I loved living in Brooklyn, but was surprised that there was nothing like the place in Manhattan. I knew it was a great concept and that it would work in Park Slope.
But I was a single parent at the time and couldn’t just quit my job. I felt passionately about the idea, though, and talked it over with friends for three years. I finally decided to sever ties with my boss and go ahead with opening the store.
I’m a big fan of Willy Wonka, and wanted this place to feel like that. Magical. And customer service lacks everywhere, so that’s been my number one thing.
Lulu’s for Baby came about because I carried Maclaren’s toy strollers at Cuts & Toys and I was getting calls for their baby products. Park Slope is such an awesome neighborhood; I was surprised no one had opened a baby gear store. I didn’t have plans to do it but happened to see a young man showing the commercial space one day and I looked at it and it just snowballed from there.
We’re doing incredibly well. Having the strollers is great; it’s like selling cars. Parents have a million questions!
Running three shops and being a mom must be kind of insane – how do you balance the demands of work and home life?
I do work a lot; I have very little time at home. But I make time to have a day here and there with Lulu – as a teen she likes to go shopping, so we’ll do that. And we always have family dinners together.
I don’t have weekends free, but I live above Lulu’s Cuts and Toys, so I’m kind of home when she comes home. I may be downstairs, but I’m around and available for homework questions or whatever.
Having Lulu’s for Baby, though, has shown me I can NOT be at Toys all the time – it’s a spinning top now and will spin on its own.
Getting to that place is my next step for Baby.
When you buy for Lulu’s Toys and Lulu’s for Baby, what are you looking for? What’s top of mind when you are stocking the stores?
I’m a big visual person, so I look at things aesthetically. When I first opened, the merchandise was all European, but some of the pull toys are $40 or $50 and that’s just not reality.
I look hard at finding interesting toys that are affordable. I’ve stayed away from things that are too high end, even though some are beautiful.
OK, idea time: What are currently some best sellers at Lulu’s Toys? What are people loving?
Science kits do amazingly well, as do the mini-kick scooters in summer. We have jewelry boxes people love, and Playmobil and pretend play toys do well consistently.
What about at Lulu’s for Baby?
We’ve become the shower and baby gift place. Sophie the Giraffe is huge. So are OBall and Squish by Manhattan Toy. I’m still learning and getting help from parents coming into the store – I’ll order things they’re looking for.
Tell us about the new store, Lulu’s Then & Now. What made you decide to open it?
I have a partner, AnnMarie, and she helped me with Baby, too – she used to own City Cricket in the West Village. She called me about another idea and I ended up mentioning a re-sale shop. People are constantly asking me where to donate clothes. We met and decided to go for it.
A re-sale shop is a sign of the times; people are being smarter about their buys these days. And I totally believe in recycling. When she was younger, Lulu’s wardrobe was probably 80 percent recycled. You can make some great finds in a re-sale shop and nobody else will have it.
What can parents expect to find at Then & Now?
We’re getting some beautiful snow suits up to 18 months or 2 years that have never been used. Also Petit Bateau, Mini Boden, and some very cute Gap stuff. A few shoes, and some gorgeous wooden toys, too. The exciting thing is that it will constantly change and evolve.
The response has been huge; AnnMarie is a great visual merchandiser, so the shop will look boutique-y, but we’ll have cheap prices!
How can parents sell their used items to you?
Right now, since doors are not open yet, we’re asking people to call for an appointment: 718.398.Lulu
After we’re open, people can drop off, but preferably not on the weekends.
We’re offering 25 percent cash of retail value or 40 percent store credit.
When do you expect to be open?
By the end of August.
You work so hard, you must really be ready for vacation when it’s time – what’s your family vacation time like?
Lulu and I love L.A. and we have good friends there. But this year, we’re renting a house in the Catskills. I didn’t want to go somewhere where we’d be shopping or moving around a lot. I wanted to sit and relax, to be at the house playing board games or cooking together or in the pool. I just want to sit and have a nice glass of wine!
Any plans for Lulu’s to branch out into other Brooklyn neighborhoods?
Not really. What I offer is special, but to keep it that way you have to keep it small. Otherwise, it loses its charm.