FARGO—McKenzie Kjos looked at what the community lacked when she picked the concept for her first business.
The 24-year-old Fargo native who always loved fashion grew up telling people she'd open her own store. For a long time, she assumed she'd get around to it later in life after working for someone else.
But after four or so years selling women's clothing at the Apricot Lane store in West Acres Shopping Center, Kjos decided she had waited long enough. She achieved her longtime goal Sept. 9 with the opening of Tootsie's Children's Boutique, 5670 38th Ave. S., in the new Veterans Square development on the corner of Veterans Boulevard and 40th Avenue South.
"People have really liked what they see when they come in, and they're excited that there's something in the area over here now for them," she said.
While Kjos doesn't have children of her own, she does have nieces and nephews. Their portraits adorn the walls in her store, and her younger relatives help test products as she decides what to stock.
Tootsie's Children's Boutique carries clothing for children sizes preemie to 6, basic infant needs accessories like bottles, blankets, crib sheets and bibs, and products for moms, including nursing pillows and diaper bags.
She said she wanted to cater to the youngest residents of the community, not women, because Fargo-Moorhead already had a lot of women's clothing boutiques. This part of town didn't have much for baby and children's clothing stores, she said, and the community overall didn't have much of a selection for boys' clothing.
That's why she's focusing on those demographics with her store, which takes its name from the Toots or Tootsie nickname that her grandparents called her. Her mom continues to use that nickname sometimes, and in a way, the store moniker reflects the child at heart that Kjos still is in her 20s.
But the "boutique" part of the name simply refers to the store's more upscale look and vibe, she said, not its price point. While some of higher-end lines of clothing can cost more, she said most merchandise she stocks is more affordable.
Kjos is the only employee, ordering products she picks at vendor markets and staffing the store seven days a week. She plans to hire workers as business requires it, and said she would like to eventually open more stores in the region.
She also thinks there could be room in the local market for a related store that caters to kids 6 to 14, a demographic that doesn't get the same kind of attention at boutiques as older teens and adults.
For now, she's focusing on her first store that she said made sense to open here because of the community's rapid growth to the southwest. Many of her customers are younger families who tell her they live in new houses just a couple blocks away, she said, and all signs point to continued growth here in the years to come.
Kjos said she's already dealt with a couple of surprises of owning a business. Construction seems to take longer than anyone expects, she said, and it's important to be patient.
She also discovered baby fever might be her biggest occupational hazard.
"I'm not married or anything, but I would like to have children, and it doesn't help when you stand in here," she joked.
What: Tootsie's Children's Boutique
Where: 5670 38th Ave. S., Fargo
Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday
Phone: (701) 353-7256