Back in 2016, life took a turn for Tamara Barclay-Adams. As a newly divorced mother of three, the future seemed unclear. All she knew was that she needed something to occupy her mind.
With a master’s degree in marketing, Barclay-Adams knew that she had the potential for entrepreneurship. That’s why she decided to use her skills to open Olly-Olly, a children’s boutique stocking clothes for kids in their infancy to their preteen years. While she knew that her merchandise was unique, she did not know that her idea would garner such a following in Baton Rouge.
After outgrowing her first storefront in 2016, Olly-Olly now calls the Southdowns Village shopping center its home. In the next two weeks, Barclay-Adams will open her second store, Kids Kicks by Olly-Olly, which will focus on children’s shoes. Insider tip: Anyone who wants to peek into the store before its official opening need only to mention it to Barclay-Adams, and she’ll walk them over.
We spoke to Barclay-Adams about her journey to retail success:
1. What is a typical day like for you and your team at Olly-Olly?
I usually get to work at 7:30, right after carpool. The start of the day looks like pulling all the online orders from the night before and getting any gift wrap requests done because a lot of people try to pick them up right as we open. Then, the rest of the day is crazy chaos of opening boxes and putting out new products. We get boxes every single day, so we spend a lot of time redoing shelves, helping customers and wrapping gifts—mostly just craziness.
2. What is your professional background? How did you get into the retail field?
I was a stay-at-home mom, and then I got divorced and needed something to do. I started selling stuff on eBay and Amazon. That’s how I got into kids’ clothing and how Olly-Olly started—as a kids’ consignment store. I was already familiar with used kids’ clothing and it just built from there. We followed customer requests and kept adding one little line at a time and it just grew and grew. I have a master’s degree in marketing from LSU, and this was just a good way to use my skill set.
3. What are the first things customers see when they walk through the doors of Olly-Olly?
I hope the first thing they see is a bright, friendly, happy space. A lot of times, a new customer will walk in the door and go “Oh, my God!” and that’s what we’re looking for. We just want people to immediately have the feeling that this is somewhere they want to spend time.
View this post on Instagram
4. What sets your store apart from other children’s boutiques?
The great thing about Olly-Olly is that you can get basically everything here. A lot of our customers tell us that it’s one-stop shopping. We have everything from newborn gifts to any toy you need to tween clothing. So if you’re a busy mom and you have to do a lot of errands—say you need a baby gift for a shower this weekend and you need something for your daughter to wear to church on Sunday—you don’t have to go to several places. You can get everything you need here.
5. What is one thing you think customers should know about Olly-Olly that they may not be aware of?
One of the things a lot of people don’t know is that we do a birthday registry. So the kids can come into the store a couple of weeks before their birthday and walk around and make a list of things they’d like to get from their friends for their birthdays. We will help people who call on the phone to shop that list. Even out-of-town grandparents or other relatives who want to shop for a family member can call us and say, “My grandchild has a list there. Can you help me shop?” We’ll send them pictures and they can choose what they want, and we will have the gift wrapped and ready so that the parent can come and pick it up from the store.
If you’re a mom, you know that the week before your child’s birthday, everybody’s calling you to ask, “What does [your child] like?” And when that happens, I’m always thinking, “I don’t know. She doesn’t need anything. Don’t bring anything.” But this way, you know your child is going to get the things he or she wants and likes because they’ve chosen it themselves.
6. How do you keep Olly-Olly’s inventory fresh and up to date?
I go to market three to four times a year and I have close relationships with quite a few of my reps, so they are always on the lookout for something that they know fits with my store. They’ll often send me recommendations, which is really helpful because the store is insanity all the time and I don’t always have time to do shopping online. I’m a touch-and-feel kind of person, so the fact that they’ve been to my store and know what I’m looking for is really great.
Plus, our customers are amazing. They’ll come in and say, “I saw this thing and Olly-Olly has to have it.” And then I’ll go find it. That happens to us all the time. They’ll say, “I’d rather buy it from you. Can you get this?” and I’ll say “I’ll find out. I’ll let you know in a couple of days.”
View this post on Instagram
7. Can you share a hint about what shoppers can expect to see at Olly-Olly in the fall?
I feel like I have really set us up to have an amazing fourth quarter. Without giving too much away, this season I really tried to look for new and innovative things for Olly-Olly. Last year, we had some segments of our demographic that weren’t being served enough (for instance, we didn’t have enough toys for older boys), so this year we really tried to hit every category to make sure that no child is forgotten. It’s partly why we started a boys’ room a few months ago.
If you’re a boy mom, you know it’s difficult to find clothing and toys for boys. So I gave up my storage room and we turned it into a retail space for boys—we were floored by the positive response to that. This season, I have increased it tenfold. We’ll be seeing a lot of new lines, especially for boys, and we’re going to sell clothing up to size 14 for them. Those are some of the things I’m excited about this coming season. We also have an amazing tween section in our store and we have continued to grow it.
8. What was your reason for opening Olly-Olly? When did it open, and how has it grown or changed since then?
After my husband and I separated, I needed work that would allow me to be flexible and still be a mom without having to answer to a boss. We opened in 2016. It’s insane to see where we started and where we are now. When we started our store in a 1,100-square-foot space, we were predominately a consignment shop, and now we no longer do consignment. This store is a gift haven.
Two years ago in October, we moved into a 3,600-square-foot space and it is packed to the gills. We kept getting requests from customers to carry shoes, so that’s why we’re now opening Kids Kicks. We needed it to be in its own space because there’s simply no more space here.
The growth has been amazing, especially after dealing with a tough economy, plus COVID. It’s just unbelievable how far Olly-Olly has come.
View this post on Instagram
9. What are a few of your favorite items at Olly-Olly right now?
We have two lines in here that make me happy right now. One’s called Belle Cher; it’s from a local mom and she does all this LSU stuff in sequins. The great thing about it is that she does mommy-and-me matches, so the moms and their girls can wear matching things. The second is a line called Azarhia, which is exclusive to us in Baton Rouge. We work so closely with that owner to create pieces that are exclusive to Olly-Olly. I just love having those kinds of working relationships with vendors who have creative freedom, so I can call her up and say “I was thinking maybe we could do this” and she’ll say “I probably can make that work,” and then we come up with something fabulous.
10. What are a few must-have items for the fall at Olly-Olly?
That’s a hard one because I feel like everything in here is a must-have item.
We have amazing chenille blankets for the girls, though they sell out very quickly. Besides that, I would say that the must-have items this year are going to be our holiday clothes; we’ve chosen items that pair well and that will match the whole family for holiday pictures.
View this post on Instagram
Bonus question: What are some of your best-selling products at Olly-Olly?
We sell a ton of journals—I don’t know why. We can never order enough journals. We also carry this amazing makeup line called Petite and Pretty, which is designed for younger kids who want to start playing with makeup, but not necessarily their parents’ expensive products. It’s a clean beauty product, so it won’t break out girls’ faces.
Anything bath-related is also hard to keep in stock. We sell bath bombs, salts and spa masks all day, every day.