By Raiza Giorgi
Children’s growth spurts seem to happen overnight, and pants that fit them one day are high-waters the next.
After Nicole Schultz and her partner, Lianne Clifford, had children, they understood that problem and became part of a community that handed down clothes to children younger than their own.
“It almost called out to us, that this was what we needed to do. When we opened Happy Little Hippo nine years ago, we knew that it would be a great store but were surprised to find that we have created this little community. It’s lovely when new moms come in and they connect with seasoned mothers and they start conversations, and we all help each other through this journey,” Schultz said.
The Wisconsin native came to Santa Barbara as many others have done, to attend college and then deciding to stay after graduation. She worked at the Braille Institute when she and Clifford had their first child. Scouring garage sales and thrift store became time-consuming, soon Schultz was longing for a place where they could find clothes in great condition and not have to sift.
“I ended up going through the business course at Women’s Economic Ventures and they helped me define exactly what I wanted. Nine years later we are going strong, and this is a full-time endeavor for both of us and supports our family,” she said.
Happy Little Hippo is a place where parents can bring their children without the fear of breaking anything or needing to say constantly, “Don’t touch that.”
“We have toys for the kids to play with while the moms shop … the clothes and items we have are in great condition,” Schultz said.
Because it is so expensive to live in Santa Barbara, Schultz said that having a resale company eases her mind that families who live on tight budgets can find decent clothes and shoes without breaking the bank.
“Kids grow so fast, and if you shop at stores with newer items it can make a dent in your pocketbook for sure,” Schultz said with a laugh.
All the store’s items are on consignment. Schultz and Clifford make appointments with the owners of the items and inspect the clothing to be sure it has no stains, holes and other marks before accepting it for the store.
“There seems to be this movement going on as well, because there is so much stuff in the world, that recycling and reusing is becoming as important as ever. I rarely buy anything new because the items we get in are so great. Some pieces still have the tags on them because the kids grew so fast they couldn’t even wear them,” Schultz said.
Owning their own shop has also allowed Schultz and Clifford to have flexible schedules to pick their children up from school, attend a game or watch a recital.
“Family is the most important thing to us, and I love that our kids have grown up here and instilled the values of reusing and recycling. My son, unprompted, took an item and reused it as something else, which was a great moment as a parent. He did so without thinking,” Schultz said.
Happy Little Hippo has items from newborn through kids’ sizes 14-16, as well as maternity clothing and toys.
“Because kids’ feet grow so fast, shoes are the best seller for us,” she said.
They also have baby carriers, strollers, high chairs, swings, baby monitors, walkers, breast pumps and more.
“Our customers are so loyal as well. One couple that used to live in Santa Barbara now live in Dubai and they come back once or twice a year to shop here because there aren’t many options for them in their city,” Schultz said.
Happy Little Hippo is at 2919 De La Vina St., across from the Daily Grind coffee shop. It is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday – Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays, and noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays. Follow them on Facebook or contact them at .