Longtime Chesapeake kids' clothes retailer to close

Connie Todd thinks an infant should never wear dark or bright colors.

 

Call her old-fashioned, but to her, a baby should be dressed in white and pastels. And those are the dominant colors of the outfits she has sold at Connie's Kids Ltd. for almost 27 years.

 

"I just can't stand black skinny jeans on a 6-month-old," Todd said.

 

Many consumers today, though, aren't as traditional, Todd said. As result, traffic at Connie's Kids has dwindled over the years.

 

Sales finally dropped to the point that Todd decided at the end of the summer to close her store on Battlefield Boulevard. She plans to raise a glass of champagne with her final customers on Saturday.

 

"The young mothers don't want to dress their kids traditionally anymore," Todd said last week, just before Christmas, with nearly empty clothing racks surrounding her. "It's just time for me to move on."

 

Retail is always a roller coaster, but Connie's Kids rode a steep sales decline in 2010 during the recession. As the economy improved, Todd tried to recover the losses.

 

Business rebounded this year, she said. "But it just wasn't enough."

 

She announced the shutdown on the store's Facebook page back in August, and it caused a shopping frenzy.

 

"I saw people I haven't seen, literally, in 20 years," she said.

 

Last year, Connie's Kids had several Rothschild coats left over after the holiday season. This year, Todd sold out of them more than a month before Christmas.

 

"Instead of buying one Christmas outfit, they might have bought two or three," she said of her customers.

 

Cheryl Tomlin started shopping at Connie's after her now 27-year-old son was born.

 

"When I had my first child, I was stupid," said Tomlin, 49, who lives in the Great Bridge area near the store. "Honestly, I didn't know how to dress my son."

 

She has since shopped at Connie's Kids for every coming-home-from-the hospital outfit, every christening dress and many other pieces for her four children, as well as those for friends and relatives.

 

"It's not just a store. It's somebody who cares," Tomlin said. "She's passionate about her store, and she's passionate about her customers."

 

Tomlin has visited Todd every few days since learning of the closing a couple of months ago. She keeps buying - socks and bows for her 6-year-old daughter; baby gifts for friends who are pregnant; even outfits for her future grandchildren, yet to be conceived. She recently picked up a Feltman Brothers newborn dress - similar to the one she wore home from the hospital as a baby - marked down from $67.99 to $23.80.

 

"Stock up," Tomlin told her friends. "You never know when there's going to be a baby coming."

 

By Christmas Eve, the five racks of infant boys and girls clothes in Connie's Kids had shrunk to a single rack. After Christmas, Todd slashed prices to 75 percent off.

 

A liquidation company had suggested that she hold a going-out-of-business contest, awarding prizes such as a flat-screen TV and a Keurig coffeemaker to shoppers who collected the most points over the past two months. As of last week, Tomlin was among the top points-earners.

 

Todd, 57, said she might continue to operate Connie's Kids online for a while. And she is getting paid to manage the Facebook pages of other local retailers.

 

"I like working in pajamas," she said.
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