When it comes to clothes, toys and books, the littlest people in the St. Croix Valley area deserve nothing but the best. That’s the philosophy behind two Stillwater shops, Gammy and Gumpy’s and Lil’ Tulips.
Gammy and Gumpy’s opened its doors last summer with an interesting story. Having experienced a life-altering event last year, owners Kelly and John Daly took a hard look at what they were really passionate about, and decided the answer was family. Namely, their 3-year-old grandson. With this in mind, they quit their jobs and opened the tech-free toy store.
“We were tired of toys that did all the playing for the kids,” Kelly explains. “We wanted to go ‘old school’ with real playing, educational and creative toys.” None of the toys or books at Gammy and Gumpy’s have batteries, lights or switches. The store stocks up on toys that are responsibly made, and also offers toys and books specifically for children with special needs.
Kelly says toys help encourage emotional development in ways that technology-heavy toys can’t, which is important for kindergarten and school preparedness. While using technology is important in some cases, “there’s nothing that can replace sitting on a parent’s lap reading a book,” she says. “Kids start creating and are mesmerized by [the toys.]”
Along with the play space available in the store for kids while their parents shop, the Dalys hope to open an indoor creative play space next door called the Kid’s Oasis for events and free playtime, and also reserve the space evenings and weekends for parent groups or parties.
Jenny and Van Jensen know how important it is to make things easier for new parents. Lil’ Tulips, their business venture, started online 12 years ago when Jenny was pregnant with their first child. Four kids and plenty of experience later, the Jensens are working to offer other parents natural and safe products for their families.
The Jensens opened a brick-and-mortar store in Stillwater last July, and Jenny says the chance to meet and interact with their customers has been a success in itself. “Meeting our customers in person and getting to build that relationship locally has been nice,” she says. “We have been in the same position as they are and we use the products that they’re looking for here.”
Lil’ Tulips sells products from clothing to toys and games for kids. “I try to look for products that are safe to put on my body, and that we can feel comfortable using,” Jenny says. Most of her products are made in the USA and support small companies. The Jensens want to know where their products come from, and they believe in everything they sell.
From cloth diapers to silicone bottles, Jenny says their store stocks only the best of each product to make the choices simpler for new parents, who can feel overwhelmed by the choices at larger stores.
“We really want to take care of our customers,” Jenny says. “It’s hard being a new parent in this world. There is so much information online that people are getting overwhelmed, so we say ‘Let’s take a step back.’ ” Their goal is to make life simpler for new families, and Jenny is confident in their customer service and their excellent products to make that happen.