SPRING HILL — Rearing four children over a span of 23 years, two of them still in single digits, Lisa Whitmore built up closets and boxes full of outgrown clothing, outsized toddler furniture and toys.
Her husband joked that she had enough castaways to open a store. So she did.
From her well-stocked Kiddie Korner shop of "initiated" infant to size 8 clothing, toys and child furnishings, Whitmore spoke recently for many mothers when she said, "If you save for a year and a half, you can open a store."
"We opened with our own things," Whitmore said of the business, which celebrated its first anniversary in April.
Her signage proclaims: "Gently Used Children's Items" and "Quality and Value All in One Place."
Initially, Whitmore, 47 and a stay-at-home mom, demurred at husband Bill Whitmore's declaration.
"I don't know anything about business," she told him. "But he said, 'You know how to clean clothes.' "
That sets Kiddie Korner apart from her competition, Whitmore believes. After meticulous removal of any stains with her own special concoction, she washes and irons every piece of clothing. Each toy is washed, sanitized and wrapped in plastic, ready for play.
She will scrub, sand and repaint some items, such as a crib. She will repair a high chair's or car seat's cover. She knows toy manufacturers' addresses so she can order any missing part.
How does Whitmore price her offerings?
"At first, that was difficult," she conceded. "I knew what my daughter (the mother of a toddler) could buy on one income. I try to price things as if I could afford only one thing. I price-check new things, and I sell way under half price."
For example, Whitmore gestured to a wall hung with onesies, the one-piece infant garments so quickly outgrown.
"Ten to 15 dollars in the store; $3 here," she said, adding, "washed and ironed."
The Whitmores' adopted 8- and 3-year-olds contributed to Kiddie Korner's original stock. Now, she picks up items at yard sales and buys or trades with her customers.
Individuals using local online sites are the shop's biggest competition, Whitemore said. But, she said online shoppers tell her they've often been disappointed when they see the real article as opposed to viewing a photo of it; also, they've expended undue time and gas to reach a point of sale, sometimes returning home empty-handed.
The Whitmores' grown children, 23 and 21, are Lisa's only and part-time employees.
Contact Beth Gray at [email protected]