CORRALITOS — On most days, Jennifer Shelton and her mother, Carolyn Schuyler, can be found sewing away in Just Baby Gifts & Apparel, a little Corralitos storefront with racks of one-of-a-kind, hand-made baby clothes and a small artist studio for two. The pair has a legion of loyal, graying customers who admire the intricate smocking work of their play and party dresses, knitted hats and sweaters and the shelves of other private label items in the 18-month-old neighborhood storefront.
“These are lost arts,” said Shelton, who opened the store after growing out of her home-based online business for several years. She recently re-launched a new online storefront to establish a stronger global presence. It is, she said, a labor of love that manages to cover its expenses — but, not pay either of them actual salaries. “What else would we do?” asked Shelton, who grew up sewing her own clothes and knitting, along with her siblings under the steady tutelage of their mother. “She’s taught me everything I know.”
The store is best known for its traditional smocked baby dresses, jumpers for boys and hand-knit sweaters, but they also sell items created by a handful of other regional and specialty designers as well, such as Zootie Patootie of Salinas; M.L. Designs of Corralitos; Sage Creek Organics of Tarzana; Bearington Collection of Kennesaw, Ga.; and Bunnies By The Bay of Anacortes, Wash. They also have handmade burping cloths designed by Selbie Mikcae, an Aromas student who worked at the store recently as an intern.
“I’m fascinated that they make their clothing right at there at the store,” said Kathy Mann, a returning customer. “I remember these things from when I was a young mother. It’s nice to know that that quality is still available and when you put a garment on a baby it doesn’t overwhelm the baby.”
Behind the store register are shelves of floral prints, pastels and gingham. There are two comfy chairs and two sewing stations. Several projects in various stages lie about on a center table alongside piles of materials while the pair trades off duties on their latest designs and plan their next globe-trotting venture to discover new fabrics and yarns.
This week, Schuyler brought in her latest idea for holiday gifts — a yellowing McCall’s pattern for Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls that she’d picked up somewhere for 75 cents.
The two had recently put away their projects and traveled abroad for vacation and new ideas, landing eventually in a Liberty of London fabric store. Although they’d pledged not to work on the trip, they later each confessed to sneaking sewing projects in their bags to keep their hands busy.
“Fortunately we haven’t lost the fun of it yet,” says Shelton, who is the store’s chief designer. She loves the old-fashioned, more traditional styles while her mother, who does most of the hand smocking on dresses and knitted items, contributes a bolder, more contemporary flavor to the creations.
“I’m the slave labor,” Schuyler said with a laugh.
Since the store opened in 2009, the inventory has quadrupled, Shelton said. “We consider ourselves a success. From the beginning, we’ve paid our bills.”
Shelton said she estimates that they probably earn a penny an hour for their intricate work on the unique day and party dresses that take about a week to make but sell for as low as $40 and $60 a piece. “We pay no attention to that. What would we do — play computer games or read books?”
People’s lives are so busy and the quiet time seems to be missing. This gives you such a sense of accomplishment when something is finished and it’s worked out perfectly.”
Just Baby Gifts & Apparel
WHAT: A small baby clothes store specializing in one of a kind, handmade everyday and party attire created on-site by a mother and daughter team. The company also sells items that are created by regional artists and specialty companies.
LOCATION: 2905 Freedom Blvd., Corralitos
BACKGROUND: Founded as an online venture in 2006; opened as a Corralitos store in September 2009.
OWNER/DESIGNER: Jennifer Shelton
KEY HAND STITCHER, SMOCKER & DESIGN ADVISER: Carolyn Schuyler
INFORMATION: 768-0923; http://justbaby.us/ (website is under construction).
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; closed Sunday & Monday. Private shopping by appointment.
This article appeared here.