BY JUDY STEININGER | PHOTOS BY DAVID SZYMANSKI
Once inside Little Monsters, young mothers’ hearts go pitter-patter, and grandmothers swoon with delight. As Andie Zacher, owner of the delightful shop with a kid-sized teepee in the window, likes to say, “I’m a purveyor of happiness. Everyone is welcome here.”
Nestled on Milwaukee’s East Side, Little Monsters opened seven years ago. The name came out of a serendipitous conversation between Zacher and daughter Bella, who is also her creative consultant. Bella was talking about how adorable and mischievous baby goats are. When she compared them to little monsters, Zacher immediately knew she had the boutique’s name. Bella is also responsible for the jars of brightly colored candy beneath the checkout counter. They are situated at eye level for the convenience of school children, like those directly across the street at Maryland Avenue Montessori School, who stop in with allowances.
How did you become a shop owner?
Experience. I’ve been involved with retail for years — both adult and children’s clothing, starting out at Aversa, then Ma Jolie, Just Kidding and Boutique Bebe. When I created my own business, I wanted it to be as if you were coming into my home. I can still remember the first day I opened here, because it felt like I was playing store.
Tell us about your unique lines of clothing and toys.
My selections are special items of high quality. Twice a year I go to New York for the Children’s Club Show and Playtime markets. Bella lives in Brooklyn, so those purchasing trips are special.
Those markets are where I find lines like Pink Chicken, (which is) by a New York-based designer; Tun Tun from Peru, which makes hand-knit items of baby alpaca; and the Winter Water Factory, started by two sisters from Germany (and) now located in Brooklyn. My clothes are either organic cotton, like the selections from Pink Chicken, or pima cotton, which is also used by Tun Tun. Some are bamboo fabric. They are all so soft; the colors (are) unique, and the designs are classic. Recently, fox, hedgehog and bear figures were prevalent. The color orange, especially for trim, is currently popular. Next up, I’m predicting llamas.
Markets are so large (that) they can be overwhelming, but I buy only what I love. If I have to think about it, I don’t bring it to the shop. I don’t sell trendy items or hot toys. When people visit, they want to touch, and that’s fine with me. Many of the toy lines I carry are European, such as Moulin Roty, Goki and Kid O, as well as classic Fisher-Price. Just look at this exquisitely painted wooden box with small wooden figures inside to dress up, or see this dollhouse-sized wooden castle with little king, queen and knight figures.
What unique service do you provide customers?
We gift wrap free using paper or a see-through bag with matching lime-colored tissue and ribbon. That’s our cheery wall color paint.
How do you answer the phone?
“Good afternoon, Little Monsters!”
Share the names of some special neighborhood establishments.
Comet Café is great for coffee and a “naughty” lunch — meaning it might have some extra calories. I go to Beans & Barley when I want a super healthy meal. Boswell Books is a treasure to the neighborhood and the city. The author events amaze me. The Waxwing is an incredible gift shop. There are fine items — and mostly from Wisconsin.
Visit Little Monsters: 2445 N. Farwell Ave., (414) 964-2323, littlemonstersmilwaukee.com
The Bonnie Mob rainbow sweater and rompers
Winter Water Factory leopard onesies
Miki Miette plaid top and matching bottom