“I now get to buy girls’ clothes!” jokes Jack and Lola owner Leanne Kripp. The mother of three named the North Vancouver store after her eldest son Jack and “Lola,” the girl she never had.
The store recently celebrated its one year anniversary. Like many mom entrepreneurs, Leanne was inspired by her role as a mother to start her business. Baffled that she’d have to leave the North Shore to look for quality baby gear, Leanne was even more frustrated that she couldn’t find everything under one roof and had to drive to several locations to find what she was looking for.
With the launch of Jack and Lola, Leanne has solved both those challenges. The 10,000 sku store is chock full of what every expecting, new and even seasoned parent is looking for – and it’s almost always in stock and available right there on the shelf or hook. The store flows in a cohesive way and products are categorized under a “Good, Better, Best” model, making it easy to shop for what you’re looking for, whether it’s for bedtime, mealtime or play time – and more. I personally was immediately drawn to the nursery showrooms they have at the back of the store, which are tastefully displayed to inspire any expecting parent.
Leanne and her staff seem to have an acute sense of what families are looking for and how they buy it. Their staff, which includes an Olympic figure skater, is obsessed with researching the best, latest and must-have items for the modern family. Leanne is also keenly aware of what she calls “Word of Mom” – the way many moms consult other moms when making purchasing decisions for a stroller, high chair or whatever any newborn to six-year-old might need – and works to ensure that the Jack and Lola brand is associated with quality, style, service and community.
“I’d like our customers to understand naturally that this is a special place.”
The 6,000 square foot location on First Avenue has had several previous incarnations, including a roller rink and night clubs, and even retains some of its funky charm from those eras. One lounge has been converted to “Jack’s Lounge,” a place for dad to relax and have a cup of coffee, while another has been made into “Lola’s Lounge,” where mom can quietly breastfeed while older children can play. The old shooter bar is now their “Little Feet” kid shoe area. “Customers will often come in with fond memories of meeting boyfriends,” says Mark Halliday, the store’s general manager. “One of our staff members can even point out where she first kissed her husband!”
Leanne loves that the space has a special place in her customers’ hearts and strives to maintain a comfortable, relaxing atmosphere for families – especially kids. “We want kids to experience the store,” says Leanne, saying that kids are welcome to touch, play and ride the merchandise. “The Wishbone bikes are out because we want the kids to try them.” High chairs are on display around a kitchen table once in Leanne’s family, inviting parents to test the chairs and give them a sense of how their baby likes the product.
Community plays a big part of Jack and Lola, which supports Family Services on the North Shore, as well as the Kindertunes series at this year’s Harmony Arts Festival, among other charities. The store boasts over 30 local suppliers, including My Monkey Moo, Popos Ponchos, Nana, Kohlr Baby and Green Bean Baby. Leanne particularly loves supporting budding mom entrepreneurs like Mission’s Nursery Naturals. “It’s one special benefit that I didn’t expect when I opened the store.”
Maybe it’s the other details that make Jack and Lola so special. Their long list of amenities includes a wish list service and delivery and assembly of cribs, strollers and other items for a nominal fee. They also host a slew of information events, including Hush-a-Baby sleep sessions with Helen Sands and a naturopath talking about supplements and other pregnancy health topics. Lullaby League recently hosted one of their events at the store. You can even order a custom Jack and Lola gift basket assembled in your desired theme, including green, natural or local. They are even an official rental facility for Medela breast pumps.
While not discounting that another location may be in their future, Leanne says her focus is on launching an online store and expanding their web site, as well as bridging more of a relationship with customers using social media tools like Facebook and Twitter in addition to their 2,000 subscriber email list. Most of all, she wants to continue creating deep ties to the community.
Whatever it is, the future is bright for this North Vancouver gem.
Jack and Lola
125 W 1st St., North Vancouver, BC | 778-340-JACK (5225)