NEW PORT RICHEY — Crystal York inspects a set of tiny sneakers beside a cash register at Stellie Bellies. She buffs out scuff marks, attaches a price tag — $9.99 for a pair that costs $40 new — and puts the barely used shoes on a rack surrounded by bright and colorful clothes and toys for kids.
York owns Stellie Bellies Kiddie & Maternity Resale Boutique, which opened on State Road 54 in February. The shop sells used clothes and accessories for newborns through children's size 8, and for expectant mothers. It accepts clean, modern clothes with no rips or stains in exchange for store credit.
York says the store serves an important purpose.
"A lot of kids' clothes are washed and worn twice," she said. "There's no reason to spend double the price."
York, 37, first stumbled on a Stellie Bellies in 2010 during a day out with a friend in Palm Harbor. Pregnant with her second child, York needed all the things mothers buy in preparation for a newborn. So much time had passed since the birth of her first son, now 6, that York had "either given away or yard-saled almost everything."
So she trekked often from her home in Trinity to Stellie Bellies before and after her second son's birth.
"When you have a newborn, it's not so easy to shop," she said. But she noticed a difference when she shopped at Stellie Bellies.
"It was not (like) going to a big store, where it's hard to get in and out and you can't get help," she said. "You could get great things for great prices, and it was kid-friendly."
York said the staff was personable, and nobody cared if she stopped shopping to breast-feed in a dressing room. She liked the Stellie Bellies experience but didn't like the long drive. She wished for a location close to home. She did not always expect she would own one.
York has worked as a nurse for 12 years, most recently as charge nurse at Medical Center of Trinity, where she continues to work on the side. Her husband, Shawn, was a catastrophe-insurance adjuster, requiring a lot of travel.
"I have two boys," York said. "They need their dad."
The Yorks had considered opening a business so he could stay close to home. Crystal called Stellie Bellies to ask for advice about opening a resale store and learned that Mike and Stella Myers were looking to expand.
The Myerses opened a Stellie Bellies on Fourth Street in St. Petersburg in 2000, and another about four years ago on U.S. 19 in Palm Harbor.
"Our two corporate stores are alive and thriving," Stella Myers said.
But she wanted to build the brand. To do it, she and her husband had planned to entrust it to franchisees. York's store — which joins child-centered resale stores in Pasco like All About Kids in Land O'Lakes and Little Amici in Wesley Chapel — is the first Stellie Bellies franchise.
Stella Myers said New Port Richey is a "growing family community. The demand is here."
York said she is prepared to meet it. Stellie Bellies brands include Gymboree, Old Navy and the Children's Place for kids' clothes, and Motherhood and Pea in the Pod for maternity clothes. There are Chico car seats, Fisher Price toys and Medela breast pumps. Toys and other products that require batteries are tested before they're sold, and Stellie Bellies doesn't take items if there are recalls on them.
The store is for kids, who can watch a movie while parents shop, York said, and for moms and dads. And it's for grandmas "who need a Pack 'N Play once a week and don't want to spend $150."
New moms who shop won't just save money, York said, but will leave with "what they need, not what every commercial says they need."
Arleen Spenceley can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6235.