Growing Through Arts® Retailer: N'Tended for Kids

NWhen Francis Harper, owner of N’Tended for Kids, a combination children’s clothing store and dancewear store in Danville, VA, got her first samples of the storybooks and toys from Growing Through Arts®, she knew she liked them right away. But would kids like them?

To try it out, Harper handed them to her 4-year-old granddaughter. “She sat right down and started playing with them,” Harper says. “She loved the Alphabet Set because she was working on her alphabet in her preschool at the time.”

In fact, her granddaughter loved them so much, she wouldn’t let Harper take them home.

Now, Harper carries the entire Ballet Series of storybooks, as well as the Practice & Play books, Alphabet Sets and Stage Scene Play Sets, and she says all of the items are popular with her customers.

“They’re very well done. The illustrations are beautiful, the colors are pretty,” Harper says. “And parents love it because it’s educational, too.”

Recently, the Growing Through Arts® books and toys were must-have items during the spring recitals in April and May. “I beefed up my inventory for recital gifts,” she says. “It’s hard to find good dance gifts.”

Harper first opened her store as a children’s clothing store in 1990. At the time, N’Tended for Kids was located next to another store that sold dance apparel and had a contract with Cappezio shoes. When that store went out of business, Harper decided to take over their Cappezio account and carry her own dance merchandise.

She quickly discovered that to be a good dancewear retailer, you have to have a lot of different items in stock. “I learned that you can’t do dance and do it small,” she says. “You have to go all out or not do it.”

She says it’s essential to carry all of the specific brands of tights, leotards and shoes that each of the local dance schools require so that when a new mom signs her child up for dance classes, she can come in and find everything she needs.

“You’ve got to talk to your dance schools and see what they want,” she says. “The communication you have with your teachers is very important.”

Over the 23 years she’s been in the business, Harper says she’s gotten a lot of joy out of seeing the children who have come into her store grow up before her eyes. “It’s been fun watching them from when they were toddlers,” she says. “Some of them have been our customers for such a long time that I know exactly what they want.”

Harper’s daughter, Leah, also took dance for 15 years, from the time she was a pre-schooler until she was in college, so throughout the years, Harper has watched dozens of dance recitals and performances and made hundreds of trips to and from the dance studio.

Although Leah is all grown up now, Harper still makes an effort to watch the local dance recitals every year. “I don’t ever miss a recital,” Harper says. “If the teachers are nice enough to send me their students, I try to go every year.”