Milk Money at 51 North Tulane Street is cheerful, charming, friendly, and fun. Its bright decor and color scheme are immediately appealing to children and adults alike.
The children’s consignment shop, which opened several years ago, has been owned by Michelle Towers for the past year and a half. Ms Towers, who formerly lived in Paris, focusing on photography (she also worked for photographer Pryde Brown in Princeton), has worn many hats during her career, including running a restaurant in Pennsylvania.
“I have always been very entrepreneurial” she explains, and when the opportunity to acquire Milk Money presented itself, she was eager to start a new venture.
“I’m a mom, and I had been a customer,” she adds. “The time was right. I believe if it’s meant to be, it will show itself to you. Milk Money is a great concept. It’s a franchise — there are five in New Jersey and Pennsylvania — but it’s independently-owned, and it gives you an enormous amount of freedom. You make it suit the location you’re in and the tastes of the customers. I am very independent and like to be my own boss, but the company’s there to support you if you need it”
The shop offers gently-used (and some never worn) clothing for infants and children up to 12- or 13-years-old, sizes zero to 16. The selection is especially focused on designers, often European, such as Mini Boden, Petit Bateau, Caitimini, and Hanna Andersson. Other lines include Papo d’Anjo, Gap, Polo, and Crew Cuts (the children’s line of J Crew).
Popular items today are jeans, of course, and the girls especially love skinny jeans. There is also an expanded section of boys’ clothing for all ages.
“We have a lot of European customers,” reports Ms. Towers, “and the flavor is different with European clothes. These lines are not easy to get, and you won’t find them all over by any means. The British Mini Boden line is a favorite with boys and girls, and has tops with fun graphics and designs, and also dresses.”
“We’ll sell a lot of coats in the winter, and after Halloween, people start asking for snow — pants, jackets, etc. We already have a big selection of Halloween costumes, and customers are calling for them right now.”
Shoes and boots are also very popular, particularly Uggs and Hunter rain boots. Footwear for tiny feet, including infants, is available as well.
In addition, Milk Money offers a variety of the very popular Melissa & Doug toys. “These are new, not used, and we are one of the few stores in the area to carry them,” says Ms. Towers. “Their sticker books are very popular for boys and girls, and also scratch pads, puzzles, magnets, and the arts and crafts items for beads, pretend cupcake-making, etc.”
One of the most popular sections at Milk Money contains the selection of strollers, carriers, high chairs, and bikes. “We do very well with equipment,” notes Ms. Towers. “We cannot keep strollers in the store. The selection we have is so well-made, including ‘Bugaboo’. It’s an organic wooden system-type stroller and grows with the child, having different uses. Strollers are multi-use now, and double strollers are very popular too.”
Other items include the Norwegian Stokke high chair, which also grows with the child. The comfortable Ergo carrier is organic and versatile, and is a baby carrier that can also become a backpack.
“We also have a Skuut balance bike made of wood and without pedals,” points out Ms. Towers. “It’s European-made and helps children learn to balance a small two-wheeler.”
The Milk Money arrangement with consignors is 60 percent for the store, 40 percent for consignors. In addition, there is a one-time 10 percent consignment fee for entry into the system. Items must be clean, in good condition, and reflect up-to-date styles. They are accepted on Tuesday and Thursday between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
“Clothes must be good brands, good styles, and in good shape,” says Ms. Towers. “When the consignment is completed, everything is listed, and consignors are directed to a website to track their balance. Also, on Saturdays, we have a drop-off day, when whatever people bring in is accepted for consignment or donated to charities.”
“We have two seasons,” she continues. “Fall/winter and spring/summer. We are currently accepting fall and winter items through December.”
“In mid-season, we lower some of the prices of items that haven’t sold. Also in January and July, we have a 50 percent off clearance sale. And we have a bag sale twice a year, when whatever you can fit in the bag is $20. That is very popular!”
Consignors are notified before the bag sale, if they wish to retrieve their clothes. After the sale, all unsold items are donated to charities helping children in need.
Consignors include people from all over the area and from as far away as New York, as well as European residents in Princeton, reports Ms. Towers. “They all bring in wonderful things, and customers love the selection. They are so appreciative and kind. There are so many regulars who love to come in — it’s almost a life-style for them!”
Customers enjoy the convenient arrangement of the shop, with categories for boys and girls, babies, and age-identified areas, she adds.
“Every two weeks we send a newsletter to customers, which could include back-to-school specials, What’s Hot’, and a Wish List. All the consignors get this too. We also have a lot of things to see on Facebook.”
Ms. Towers couldn’t be more pleased with the direction Milk Money has taken. “With our selection of higher end designer clothes, the shop is set up more like a retail than a consignment shop. We are more of a boutique, with the brands we carry and the new toys. And our layout is not that of a typical consignment shop.
“There is a lot of work involved in having a consignment shop, but the reaction has been even more enthusiastic than I expected. I love seeing the clothes come in, and I enjoy meeting the people. Some of the customers have been pregnant, and then later, they come in with the babies. This is wonderful! This is a happy business.”
Prices cover a wide area, with dresses and pants starting at $8.
Milk Money is open Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday 11 to 4. Friday hours will be extended to 7 in the future. (609) 921-1665. Website: www.milkmoneylove.com.