Story and pictures by Kelly Newsom
The feel of small town care and love is enormous when you are in Sweet Potato Pie. Owner, Janelle Dwyer, has vision and passion for joining families to create stronger community ties. Sweet Potato Pie is primarily a child’s consignment shop but equally important is Janelle’s creation of family oriented events and classes.
In a search to find parenting peer groups with children the age of her own child, Janelle was presented the opportunity to continue Sweet Potato Pie after the original owners decided to close it’s doors. In doing so, she has merge the idea of community and consignment in a way that is new, fresh and very promising.
Check Sweet Potato Pie out. It’s an adorable shop, but most importantly you’ll find an owner who is eager to share her love for community and friendship.
Tell me about you and your business.
Janelle: I grew up in Woodland. My husband and I moved back about six years ago when I was 8 months pregnant. Sweet Potato Pie is a children’s consignment store but also a children’s boutique store. In having my own child and having products that worked for me, and that I loved, I wanted to a) find those products in my home town and b) share them with everybody I knew. It’s all about the things that work for you and your children. We carry baby shower gifts, locally made handmade items, and we just started expanding into toy lines.
Explain the consignment part of the business.
Janelle: We carry newborn to 8 sized clothing for children so we wanted to expand into toys that go up to 8 years of age as well. The whole point of consignment is either trading or selling your items to make money. Depending on whether the seller chooses store credit or cash determines the percentage back they get. So 40% for cash and receive a monthly check or 50% of what sold for store credit.
When did you first thing about opening your own store?
Janelle: Well, I never thought about it. I had an idea of wanting to own my own boutique of some type. But I never thought it would become a reality. I actually didn’t start the business from scratch. I bought the business from two women in Woodland that had done a great job but they were going to close the doors. It came to my attention from a friend who suggested that I do this. I laughed and told her she was crazy! But I couldn’t get it off my mind. I always found it was so expensive to buy children’s clothes when they grow so fast. I’ve received a lot of hand-me-downs for my own child. I’ve never had to buy a lot of new clothes so the consignment idea for children just made sense for this town.
What was the transition process from telling your friend “you’re crazy” to opening the doors for business?
Janelle: It was super fast. It was about one to two months from deciding to purchase to owning. Maybe it was a good thing because there was no going back. We kept it running as is from October thru December and closed during the holidays to remodel. We reopened January 5th, that was 2013, as a grand reopening with the new look you see now. We put in all new floors, painted the walls and repurposed a lot of items. It’s a consignment store so the idea of repurposing, making old things new again, was the feel we wanted.
Describe the style of your store.
Janelle: Playful, with the bright colors. The walls are grey so the rest of the colors can pop. Whimsical, with the play center in the middle of the store. I just want it to be fun. I have a lot of parents that enjoy the play area in the center of the store so they can shop and keep an eye on their kid the entire time. Sometimes kids are kicking and screaming going out the door because they want to stay. They love it here and that was the idea.
What other services do you provide?
Janelle: What I wanted to add to the store was the play group and classes. A portion of the business is making it a place where parents could meet other parents to connect. To allow them to meet others with children the same age as theirs, in the same town. I always felt it was really hard, as a stay at home mom for three years, to meet other parents that had kids the same age as mine. Being able to socialize your kids before pre-school is important. So, offering a hub for parents to meet up and get to make strong connections in the town. These were the main drive behind the purchase of the store.
Cloth and carry exchange. A customer who frequents the store and is also a consigner had the idea of a cloth diaper class. It was once a month and now we have a Cloth and Carry Social. It’s quarterly but it’s a chance for those parents who do cloth diapering to buy, sell and trade with others who do the same. It brings a community that is here in Woodland together, that otherwise wouldn’t have an opportunity to meet. We just provide the place for this to happen.
Sleep workshop for children, 0-6 years. We have a Sleep Coach out of Elk Grove come in to talk to parents whose children have difficulty with the different transitional stages. Examples being co-sleeping to not co-sleeping or crib to big kid bed.
Play groups are Monday and Thursday 10:30 to 11:30. Its free and you don’t have to register. Come and go as you please and it’s held in our Spud Patch room in the back. It’s a another chance for you to meet other parents that have children of similar age. It’s trying to make connections.
Kelly: Tell me more about the connections. Janelle: As much as we want connections to be made in the store, we also want to have connection with everything, everyone. For me, it’s not a competition. I alway tell other businesses to let me know if they have a family-friendly event, I’ll put it on my Facebook page. The Library and I do that a lot. I want businesses to partner up. I love the idea that we are a community of our own.
How do you balance your work and home life?
Janelle: In the beginning I found I was giving a lot to the business. Everyone would go to sleep and I would stay up to the wee hours of the morning. I’d go to bed then still wake up with everyone. It was a lot. I had so much I wanted to change and bring in. I’ve learned that when I leave the store, I leave everything here. It took a while and there are some nights that I do have deadlines, so there are those times. But not as bad as before. Also, now my son is in kindergarten so I have a bit more time during the day.
What’s a favorite memory since becoming owner?
Janelle: I get to watch kids grow. Literally from the mom’s tummy to being able to participate in the play groups. That’s awesome. I keep pushing the “connection” thing with parents but I really have a connection to a lot of the customers and their kids. I’ve had mom’s tell me their kids say, “Janelle is my best friend!” That’s the best part of it.
What else do you want Woodland to know?
Janelle: There are so many amazing businesses downtown, come check them out. I’ve made a lot of great friends with the business owners. Also, a lot of things you may think are only available online just might be available in Woodland. It’s been fun to explore and get to know what’s in everyone’s store. Check it out, walk downtown.
You grew up during a time when the Mall was hot. Your connections were at the mall, not necessarily downtown. Did you have any hesitations about opening a business here?
Janelle: No hesitations. For me it’s the want to see the change. When we moved back to Woodland we would walk the downtown. There were a lot of empty buildings. But there’s been a lot of progress in the last three years. We’ve seen a lot more bodies and feet on the street. I can see the potential.
Stay local. Shop local.
Sweet Potato Pie
528 Main Street