Tadpole Children’s Shoppe celebrates a decade of transformation along with uptown

May 15, 2017

Tadpole Children’s Shoppe is all about the stages of growth for young children, and the same can be said for its place in Waterloo’s uptown core — it’s about growth.

Nimira Husein’s idea to carry quality children’s products she couldn’t find for her own kids growing up might have been the inspiration for the business. But it was how the retail landscape of the city centre changed and how her store had a front-row seat to that development that has her feeling like part of the reason people shop uptown.

“I feel established and I feel like I’m part of this community,” said Husein. “It’s not that I didn’t feel that before, but I have more roots now and the relationships we’ve made over the 10 years.

“When families come in to say hello, I’m seeing their children all grown up and they used to play at the store while their moms and dads shopped at the store.

“It’s nice to see them still come back and that they remember, and their kids remember us.”

Tadpole was one of the first stores that came out of the experiment that saw the former Waterloo Town Square broken up and turned in more of a mixed used development with office space, street level retail and a move to give stores both an inside and outside presence.

Willis Way was constructed to split up the development and add more street front retail, and it added to the main street appeal of the area.

“When the development started to change, I was intrigued,” said Husein. “I’d been a resident of Waterloo for years and I shopped at Waterloo Town Square.

“When that development started to change, I thought, ‘Wow, this is really nice.’”

Husein was a stay-at-home mom with two kids when she approached the former owner of the Shops at Waterloo Town Square, First Gulf Developments, to pitch her idea for a store that would carry unique and quality children’s goods and anticipated the move to stocking products that had longevity in addition to looking good.

“I really wanted to start a small business, and I had no experience at all,” said Husein. “All I had was an idea.

“I knew some of the things I was looking for my two children I couldn’t find in the area, and all these ideas were sitting in my head including the name of the store — Tadpole.”

First Gulf loved the idea and thought it fit in with their redevelopment plans.

“From there, it just happened. There were no hurdles; it was seamless and it just got done.”

Her first location was in the mall facing Willis Way. The products she carried caught on with a public who might not be having big families anymore but were looking for quality for the kids that they did have.

Her loyal clientele grew to the point that she eventually had to move across the street to a much bigger location to carry all the lines and the products that people knew her for — including sustainable products.

“Those were the same products I was looking for with my two kids,” said Husein about her daughter Safina and son Faiz. “Even before I opened my business, I had five things the product had to have before I even sold it in the store.

“That became more important as the years grew on because the baby industry exploded and with all the stuff out there, not everything is OK.”

Where the toy was made, and an emphasis on Canadian products was the first one, followed by how it was made and what kind of paint it used. “A few years ago we had a lot of issues with paint that had lead in it, and I always insisted that the paint had to be soy- based or water-based,” said Husein.

She didn’t shy away from price either, knowing that you had to pay for quality, especially when your dealing with something as precious as young children.

Sustainability was also a major driver for both her and her customers.

“If it doesn’t fit in with those things, then I don’t bring it in,” said Husein.

That has built a lot of loyalty over the years, which was particularly important this last year with all the road closures due to LRT work.

“People come in right from when they’re having a baby to when the kids are toddlers,” said Husein. “We do baby registries and we’ve seen a rise in that part of the business seeing people coming in right from the beginning wanting to buy the stroller, furniture or car seat and doing all of their shopping at Tadpole after that, and that’s been nice and a progression for me as well.”

Read the full article here.

Author:
Bob Vrbanac is the former Managing Editor, Waterloo Chronicle/Kitchener Post.