Thursday, March 3, 2011

Words with Retailers: Green Genes

We took a moment to get to know Green Genes, an eco-friendly retailer with products ranging from organic baby clothes to cloth diapers, wooden toys, books and more. Even cuter than the items Green Genes carries is the Chicago-based storefront, which was designed using sustainable bamboo and low-VOC paints.

Baby & Kids: What's the mission of Green Genes?

Heather Muestermann, co-owner: Our mission encompasses many things, but overall, we hope to help consumers realize that every small change can add up to make a larger difference in the big environmental picture. We have many people who come to us seeking answers, and we embrace the opportunity to help educate whenever we are able to do so. Our customers are eager to learn about things like organic cotton, BPA and why it should be avoided, reducing their use of excess bags and food containers as well the importance of buying locally and sustainably made products. We hope that if babies and kids are exposed to this information early on that making eco-friendly choices will become second-nature. And honestly, we love providing fun, fashionable and useful items that just happen to help make the world a bit greener!

B&K: What's the story behind founding the company? Have you been involved in the youth retail industry before?

HM: Over the years, I've spent a fair amount of time in the land of retail. My early jobs in high school and college breaks included plenty of time working retail at Disneyland. During graduate school, I was a personal shopper at FAO Schwarz toy store, and in between jobs that actually pertained to my career of art therapy, I managed a Baby and Kids GAP store, as well a local children's boutique. It became clear that the personal interaction and specialty customer service provided in a small boutique was very important to me. Combined with consistently expanding environmental choices at home, I realized I wanted to start my own business along with my partner, Tina. We wanted to be a one-stop-shop for many of the necessities as well as fun items that go along with kids and babies. The piece that sets Green Genes apart from other kids' stores is that all products are chosen with the bigger impact in mind — clothing is made from organic cotton, bamboo or other sustainable materials. Toys are typically wooden and locally or domestically made whenever possible. Since adults deserve green goodies, too, we also provide a selection of organic soaps, lotions, reusable totes, water bottles and paper goods.

B&K: What are a few of the bestsellers at Green Genes?

HM: We are definitely known for our whimsical, funky and sweet graphic onesies, and people come to us to see what's new in onesies. Additionally, people can't get enough of Sophie the giraffe, a natural rubber teething toy made the exact same way in France since 1961! Adults and kids alike have become huge fans of Green Genes' exclusive one-of-a-kind Sweater Dude and Friends line. Locally made, these toys are all hand-stitched using repurposed wool sweaters.

B&K: What are your plans for the future?

HM: Our brains are always going in a million different directions. We'd love a second location eventually, but that's still farther down the road. We are looking forward to our third birthday celebration April 2–3!

Photo courtesy Green Genes.

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