Move over Baby Boomers, Generation Xers and Ys. There’s a new powerful consumer bloc called “Tweens” and they are making themselves heard in retail.
"Tweens” are defined as children between middle childhood and adolescence, usually between eight and twelve years old. “Today’s tweens have money and they don’t want to save. They want to spend it on fun things," says Amy Valente, owner of West Hartford Center’s newest retailer, a home decor and accessories store called Sweet Nest, that specifically targets girls of that age. “They have strong opinions about what they like,” she adds.
Valente should know. In addition to opening her 968A Farmington Avenue store on October 28th, this busy Rocky Hill resident also runs a management consulting firm and is mother to three tween girls: a ten-year-old and eight-year-old twins.
How does she juggle it all? “I have a great support system,” notes Valente. “My husband helps with everything; with the kids, with keeping the home in balance. I also have a great babysitter and friends I can count on in a pinch.”
It’s also clear after spending some time with her that she loves what she is doing and her newest “baby,” the Sweet Nest store, is particularly dear to her.
After the birth of her first daughter, Valente fruitlessly searched for unique and affordable bedding for the little girl’s bedroom. She was then inspired to invest with a partner in an established San Francisco wholesale bedding company. She and her partner manufactured and distributed children’s bedding under the name Sweet Nest Kids. It began as wholesale venture and eventually added a retail internet site.
Valente left the business a year ago but already had in mind that she wanted to open a retail store, setting her sights on West Hartford Center. With her new venture, she wants to make it easy for parents to creatively decorate their daughters’ bedrooms without breaking the budget. “My goal is to fulfill a niche and it was my own desire to have bedding and lighting and rugs and all that great stuff for my kids, so I hope I can help other parents.”
When asked why she chose West Hartford she remarked quickly, ”Why not West Hartford? I looked for literally a year and half and nothing else made sense. There’s some great walk in traffic, West Hartford’s beautiful, and I had lived here after college for a number of years. I love the people, love the diversity. I’m surrounded by great restaurants and other great retailers. I don’t think there is a better option.”
The interior of the store is a blast of bright colors and retro images from the 1970s, yet reflecting the current tastes of young girls. Valente acknowledges that she is very lucky to have her three daughters, who consult with her and help stock the store with its funky furniture, bedding, rugs, wall art, lighting and fun accessories.
From the looks of it, the flashier the décor, the more appealing it is to her young customers.
“Young girls are looking for bright colors, retro looks, glitter, bling and fake fur. They love it when they walk in here and see all the color, the mirrors and the lights and the chandeliers.”
The small, cozy store is a feast for the eyes as it seems that every nook and cranny is stocked with a unique item. Several beds, outfitted in sheets, quilts and throw pillows line one wall, along with unusual, funky chairs. Highly affordable, colorful plastic chandeliers hang from the ceiling, youthful wall art hangs on the walls, and many shelves display accessories like handbags, jewelry, lava lamps and cozy sleeping bags.
Valente points out some of her personal favorites, including a hot pink fuzzy desk lamp that looks more like a pet alien, a line of one of a kind, recycled fabric and denim handbags created by a woman in Rhode Island, and “Chalkboard tees” that allow the wearer to write her own messages on the front.
She is determined to keep her prices affordable and many of her most popular items are under $20. There are plenty of cute stocking stuffers, including snow globe rings, slap bracelets and wristwatches, mood lipstick that changes color, and a calculator that resembles a bar of chocolate.
Personalized service is the hallmark of a local shop and Valente says that her customers can count on it. Many of her items can be monogrammed. She will happily make up gift or goodie bags and she provides complimentary gift wrapping.
Valente says that her objective is to make home “super special” for kids. “These kids want a cool bedroom. They want to have their friends over, they want to hang out and, hopefully, I can create that environment for them.”
Sweet Nest will be open Monday thru Wednesday: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Thursdays: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sundays: 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
For more information, phone the store at 860-236-NEST (6378). The store’s website is www.sweetnestkids.com.