Carefully curating a store can take a lot of time but it is one of our favorite parts of operating Smoochie Baby. We are quite fortunate here in New York City, to be surrounded by immensely talented makers, designers and creatives of all types. We love supporting local designers whenever possible and we wanted to share some of these wonderful New Yorkers with all of you. So we are thrilled to introduce our “Local Designer Spotlight Series”. Here we will chat with local brands that we love, many of whom we are honored to call friends.
In our first installment, we shine the spotlight on Estella Toys. An award-winning brand of organic baby gifts and toys that began in the West Village in 2002. Estella has made their mark on the baby industry by staying true to their brand core which is exceptional quality items made by artisan workers. We sat down with Estalla founder, Jean Polsky, to discuss the inspiration behind the brand.
Would you tell us a little about yourself?
Hello Smoochie readers, it’s nice to meet you! My name is Jean and along with my husband, Chike, I own Estella, a luxury baby gift store that focuses on making organic and fair trade products. I was born and raised in NYC while Chike is from Nigeria. I like to think that our union is a little example of NYC’s beautiful melting pot! Chike is trained as a lawyer, while I have been in retail since I graduated college (thanks for the suggestion, dad!). We live in NYC along with our three incredible kids.
What inspired you to start Estella?
Chike and I started Estella 18 years ago right before our first daughter, Stella, was born. At the time, luxury kids’ clothes in NYC were synonymous with starched collars and navy blue knickers. We had a different vision of how kids should dress, we wanted children's clothing that captured the imagination and joy that kids innately posess. So we set off to Europe to explore and quickly found that there was a whole new world of playful, fashionable kids’ clothing that the US was unaware of. We scooped up 20 new brands that we had never heard of and set up shop in Greenwich Village. Our customers loved the freshness of what we brought, a different vision for what luxury kids’ clothes could be. I still remember receiving boxes of clothes from Europe and customers gathering around in the shop while we unpacked the boxes, gasping with excitement as we pulled out new styles. It was exhilarating to have them share in our enthusiasm for these magnificent creations! Fast-forward to 2020, and we are now an online shop, making our own creations, with amazing shops (like Smoochie Baby) carrying our brand all over the country!
What has surprised you the most or been the most challenging since starting Estella?
One thing I did not contemplate when we started our little business was that we would have the honor of being a part of the most memorable time in parents’ lives. We had the privilege of meeting women who were newly pregnant (we would often know before their friends and family!) and then being a part of their lives for years as their children grew up. We would trade parenting tips and follow the highs and lows of life with them. We got to really know these wonderful people as well as their kids who we had “known” in utero. My kids now go to school with their kids and to this day, one of my closest friends is a customer I met in our shop who was pregnant at the same time I was. The incredible relationships, that would be the surprise icing on the cake!
Do you have a product that is a best seller?
That’s a tough one! Because our products are handmade, we are still trying to keep up with demand on so many of our things. We are best-known for our organic taxi rattle, but for some reason, there’s been a run on hot sauce rattles these days!
What advice do you have for someone looking to start their own business?
Starting your own business is a privilege: you're the boss, it’s your vision, your hours, your success. But on the flip side, you’re the boss: it’s your vision, your hours, your success!