Eight years ago, Mandy Dearman was invited out on a boat with her infant son. She needed a life jacket for her baby but couldn’t afford to go out and buy a new one.
By coincidence, she and her mother, Pamela Conway, parked in front of a Nevada City children’s consignment store they’d never heard of.
“I looked up, and there was a life jacket on display in the window,” said Dearman. “It was perfect.”
While Dearman went in to inquire about the life jacket, her mother waited in the car. She noticed something else in the front window — a sign that read, “Business for sale.”
That got Conway to thinking, and she jotted down the number.
When Dearman returned with the life jacket, it turns out that she, too, had jotted down the number.
“It was meant to be,” said Dearman. “My mom is my best friend, and our skills complement each other.”
Investing as equal partners, the mother-daughter team knew it would have to make some changes if the business — which had three previous owners — was to endure.
They rolled up their sleeves, said Conway, and cleaned, painted, organized and brightened up the small retail space on Main Street.
“We went into business together with a mission and a goal,” she added. “We wanted our store to be a service to the community by providing quality items with affordable prices. We wanted to provide clean, organized, name brand, quality items for parents and their children.”
In addition to children’s clothing and shoes sold on consignment, they opted to carry a line of new items from the award-winning Melissa & Doug company, which makes dolls and games and is well known for its wooden toys. They also added baby shower gift pieces, books, consignment maternity clothing and larger items, such as cribs, strollers and high chairs.
Now in business for the past eight years, Main Street Kids is going strong, said Dearman.
Having owners from two generations has been an asset, said Conway.
“Mandy knows what young moms want, and I have the grandma’s point of view,” she said. “When I was raising three kids, they didn’t have stores like this. I’d spend hours picking through items at the Salvation Army.”
The store’s clientele serves as a barometer of the county’s economic health and social wellbeing, said Conway, who hears stories regularly of foreclosures, lay-offs, divorces and miscarriages.
“There are a lot of people hurting in Nevada County,” she said. “Sometimes, people just need a place where they can feel cared about — where there is a compassionate listener. We hold babies and share our lives, too. Sometimes, they just need a shoulder to cry on.”
Main Street Kids now has more than 1,600 consignment accounts. On any given day, five to six people come with new items to place on consignment. Although things can stay in the store up to 60 days, it’s more typical for turnover to happen quickly, said Dearman. Some people come from as far as Truckee and Colfax to place their goods in the store.
“There is endless tagging, hanging, cleaning and steaming,” Dearman said. “But we are kind of picky — we don’t want to hurt people’s feelings, but we really only try to take the best of the best.”
Surplus items get donated to local charities, said Conway. Recently, some children’s vintage coats went to a local theater company.
This week, the mother-daughter duo is putting away the summer items and gearing up for fall. Soon, the large collection of Halloween costumes will come out onto the floor, followed by a large assortment of holiday outfits.
But the endless turnover is always worth it, said Conway.
“We’ve been here this long because we care about people — the relationships we’ve built is the best part of our job,” she said. “We won’t be retiring with a fortune, but we know we’re providing a valuable community service.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email Cory@theunion.com or call 530-477-4203.