When kids and parents first enter Nola's Ark (3640 Magazine St., 304-5897; www.nolasarkboutique.com), a children's clothing boutique housed in a cozy 750-square-foot shotgun house, they gravitate toward different items. Moms sift through racks of kids' clothing, which include vintage-style shirtdresses, houndstooth fedoras, cardigans and ostrich feather-trimmed T-shirts. "Kids pretty much go straight for the toys," owner Jessica Alvendia says. Eventually these trajectories convene at a point where the force of attraction rivals gravity's: the cookie plate.
"I love to bake, so we always have cookies," says store manager Katrina Calnan, who keeps the shop stocked with homemade treats like snickerdoodles, cupcakes and eggnog cheesecake. "Even the police officers come in and get sweets."
Alvendia, a native of northern Louisiana, opened the shop in April 2010 to create "a children's boutique that gives back" and carries handmade, one-of-a-kind items exclusively. Two percent of profits go to charities like Second Harvest Food Bank, the Al Copeland Foundation and the Gulf Coast Restoration Network. A book signing benefiting the Heath Evans Foundation is in the works. Though she originally planned to stock only handmade items, Alvendia has expanded her merchandise to include trendy clothing lines. "I want to have items that are fun and funky. I like the more alternative look for kids — making them look like little men and women. Moms come in and they're like, 'I would wear this,'" Alvendia says.
Though the store has a boutique feel, Alvendia wants customers to know its prices don't exclude anyone. "We always have a sale going on. Prices vary — it is more upscale, but you can get a onesie for $20 or slippers for $12. We have a variety for all pocketbooks."
Nola's Ark also carries quilts, bibs and goody bags sewn by Alvendia's grandmother. "(My grandmother) used to sew clothes for me when I was a kid. I would stay with her in the summer when I was out of school, and she taught me needlepoint, sewing with a machine and how to make quilts," Alvendia says. She sometimes stocks items that she sews herself, but as a business owner, mother of a 3-year-old, wife and soon-to-be graduate student, the amount of time she can devote to sewing is limited.
However, her experience as a mother gives her an advantage regarding the children's clothing market and she is adept at ferreting out small businesses as suppliers. "A lot of the clothing we carry is from little companies that started out with a mom making clothes for her kids, and the business just grew," Alvendia says. "So these clothes are designed by a mom."