Photo Courtesy of Stefanie Weber
It was meant to be. That’s how Jennifer Thiers, owner of Toad’ly Kids, describes her decision to move the children’s boutique store from the Forum to a free standing building on Colonial Avenue. “Once I knew I wanted to add a photography studio and combine it with the store, I was trying to think of a free standing building that had two levels. It seemed like a great location too,” said Jennifer. Fortunately, everything seemed to work out perfectly and Jennifer moved the store to the Colonial Avenue location and re-opened in February.
In August of 2012, Nancy Leggett, the long-time owner of Toad’ly Kids decided she wanted to retire. She had been the owner for 25 years. The initial plan was to simply close, not to sell. Fortunately, Jennifer was able to convince her once she told Nancy she was going to buy the store on Colonial Avenue and combine the boutique and photography studio together. “We had been acquaintances for years… but she’s become a second mother to me now… she’s an awesome advisor. Her wealth of knowledge about the industry is amazing,” said Jennifer. She continued, “we have a lot of the same lines as Nancy, but we also have a lot of lines that are more budget friendly. There’s a need for well-priced quality baby and children’s clothes in Roanoke.”
Even though Jennifer has a background in photography and is very talented herself, she knew she couldn’t run the boutique and the photography studio at the same time. “The holiday season came and I realized I couldn’t do it by myself… I didn’t feel like photography could sustain itself alone, but I knew 100 percent that the store and studio combined would be a perfect match.” After making the decision to find a photographer to help her run the studio, Jennifer kept looking for someone to bring in, but she had a hard time finding the right fit. Until, she found Stefanie Weber, a very talented, artistic photographer. “I begged and pleaded for her to take a leap of faith and join me,” said Jennifer. Stefanie had been running her own businesses and doing photography on the side, but photography had always been her passion and she was thrilled to join Jennifer. “I still come in every day thinking how lucky I am, and how cool this is… I get to do what I love in this environment,” said Stefanie. “One of the things we feel strongly about: we’re a boutique clothing store and we are offering a boutique photography session. We are really passionate about crafting every session so that it is representative of that family.”
Now, the two run the store and studio together and say they wouldn’t want it any other way. “It all fell into place so well. I wanted to find someone who shared my vision. I don’t have to ask Stefanie… she just knows. We are on the same page completely. Our photography style is so much the same.” Said Jennifer. Not only do the two feel content about their business, they also feel content about running a business in Roanoke. “Roanoke, in general, is a very tight knit community of people. Our kids grow up together, play sports together; people in this area are really good about supporting local, small businesses. Small business is what drives our community. When a grandmother comes in, and I know her granddaughter, it’s huge because I can help her find just the right thing,” said Jennifer.
It’s not all about shopping at Toad’ly Kids though. Jennifer and Stefanie are both committed to volunteering. “I love it that there are kids who can come and shop at our store. But there are a lot of kids who don’t have that opportunity. It’s important for people to know that they are out there.” So each month, Toad’ly Kids is partnering with non-profits that benefit children. Every month, each featured non-profit organization can design the display in the front window. “This will help those organizations promote any events they have coming up. We’ll put any printed materials in our customer’s bags. At the end of the month, a portion of the sales from that month will go towards the non-profit,” explained Jennifer.
So, with volunteering, running a store and a photography studio, as well as hosting events, Jennifer and Stefanie are remaining very busy. Not only that, but both women are mothers and therefore stay constantly occupied. They may stay busy, but the two women are certainly committed to making the store and studio a success. “We like to watch our clients grow up. We want to see them when they’re born, on their second birthday… we want to see when they have kids,” said Stefanie. And the two can certainly do that because the store offers not only a baby registry, but also a first birthday cake smash photo session. You can read more about that here. All in all, Toad’ly Kids is bound to be a success just as it’s always been, here in the Roanoke Valley.