When entrepreneurs Emily and Scott Goldenberg opened their children’s shoe boutique in February, they didn’t have to break the bank. Instead, the Oakland, Calif.-based couple received help from an unlikely source: area residents interested in expanding the local economy.
A year prior to opening GoldenBug Children’s Shoes, the Goldenbergs launched an Indiegogo campaign that netted more than $25,000 from neighbors looking to support the city’s small-business revival. “We heard over and over that people trying to raise capital aren’t usually successful with crowdsourcing campaigns,” Emily Goldenberg said. “But we hit our goal, which tells us the store was wanted and needed.”
Located in Oakland’s Upper Rockridge neighborhood, the 800-square-foot shop is the Goldenbergs’ second small business — the two have operated the popular downtown eatery Caffe 817 since 2011. They opened GoldenBug to give busy parents a convenient local shopping destination.
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“We were, of course, hesitant to do this at a time when so many stores are closing, but we see it as an opportunity,” Goldenberg said. “As parents, we had a difficult time finding shoes for our two children, and a lot of our friends expressed the same frustration. There are no other dedicated kids’ shoe-shopping options in our area.”
She also sees a growing movement among parents to return to the kind of personalized service and experience that the internet cannot provide. “We’ve had this big online shopping boom, and people were excited about the novelty and convenience, but many parents want to shop brick-and-mortar again,” Goldenberg explained. “They want to come to a place where their kids are expertly measured and fitted.”
When planning the shop’s assortment, Goldenberg focused on brands she likes for her own kids, among them Plae, Pediped, Livie & Luca, Robeez, New Balance and Tsukihoshi. Stride Rite also is a big draw, especially now that the brand has shuttered many of its retail stores.
To better accommodate kids’ diverse fitting needs, Goldenberg makes a point of offering width options. “I feel for parents who have a child whose foot is anything other than a medium. It’s so challenging to find kids’ shoes in narrow and wide widths,” she said, noting the store also works with local podiatrists to fit kids who require specialized insoles and orthotics.
So far, business at GoldenBug is off to a strong start. The store draws not only locals but parents from nearby cities such as Richmond and Albany, and even from across the Bay in San Francisco and Marin County. “The first month or so, we had mainly people from the neighborhood, but now that circle is getting bigger,” Goldenberg noted. “Our aim is to be a hub for parents all over the Bay Area.”
Key vendors believe the store has all the right elements for success. “GoldenBug is cozy, welcoming and very customer-friendly,” said Jill Feldman, a sales rep for Badorf Shoe Co., whose brands include Tsukihoshi and FootMates. “Emily is committed to carrying only quality, functional footwear, and she employs salespeople who are extremely knowledgeable about fitting kids’ shoes. I’ve worked with a few, and they are superb.”
Michelle Labrador, regional sales manager for Plae, added that she was impressed by Goldenberg’s due diligence in researching and planning this venture. “Emily’s preparation was unlike any other retailer I have encountered. She knew to seek out the advice of other well-respected shop owners to learn about the business and set herself up for success,” Labrador said. “She is the epitome of a next-generation shop owner who is in it to win it.”