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All dolled up

Donelyn Oliver of Wahpeton, N.D., has been selling upper-end children's clothing, furniture and accessories at Wizard of Kids for 25 years. She opened the store June 1, 1983, in Wahpeton. Oliver and her husband bought Children's Castle, a childre...

Donelyn Oliver of Wahpeton, N.D., has been selling upper-end children's clothing, furniture and accessories at Wizard of Kids for 25 years.

She opened the store June 1, 1983, in Wahpeton. Oliver and her husband bought Children's Castle, a children's clothing store in West Acres mall in Fargo, in 1989 and changed the name to Wizard of Kids.

After 10 years, Wizard of Kids moved to the T.J. Maxx Plaza in Fargo, first in a location on the end of the facility, and then in a bigger space a few stores down two years ago.

Wizard of Kids carries a variety of children's furniture, clothes and toys, from porcelain picnic sets to Baby Gund stuffed animals.

"We've always tried to fill in niches," Oliver said.

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The store also sells formal wear for infants through children size 20.

"It's very high maintenance," Oliver said. "It's very high service."

Q: What made you decide to open a store like this?

A: We wanted to start a business and had a survey done by the marketing department at Moorhead State.

It came up that a children's store was needed in Wahpeton.

I'm a fast learner and I'm not scared to try things, and we had a little money saved up.

I was a stay-at-home mom just needing to do a little more.

Do you still have a store in Wahpeton?

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No, we just have a warehouse there. I commute.

How has your business changed over the years?

Things have changed a lot since we've started.

We were predominantly clothes.

OshKosh (B'Gosh) was considered really expensive. And now, of course, that is not considered expensive at all.

There aren't as many independent specialty stores anymore.

Have you noticed any other major trends over the years?

When times get tougher, when the economy goes sour, it's better for us.

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When money gets a little tighter, people start thinking more about how they're going to spend it, and that's good for people who sell quality versus quantity.

I like it when people want to shop around because it just gives more credibility to what we're selling.

I want people to go shake cribs other places because then they'll be back.

We were the first ones to have convertible cribs. They will last to convert. We've been selling convertible cribs for 15 years.

How do you decide what to sell?

What we do we do well, or we don't do it.

That's why you won't find strollers in here.

You won't find car seats in here. We don't have room.

But we have 67 cribs that we sell, so what we do we do well.

You will not find more baby books anywhere. We try to do niches well.

I spot new trends early. I travel a lot. When I go to markets, I observe a lot. I observe which booths are busy. I talk to a lot to people.

Because we're in the Midwest, things move from both coasts here. By the time it gets here, I like to be one of the first ones to have it.

What types of clothing do you offer?

I don't pretend to sell people all of their kids' stuff - it's their favorites. It'll be the ones that they keep - the ones they don't give away or sell.

The picture outfits, the ones that are special or mean a little bit more.

I work really hard to carry lines that aren't around anywhere.

A lot of our lines are from little startup companies that take a fresh look and like to do things a little different.

We go up to 24 months and then just a little bit of toddlers.

Are you continually changing your store?

Always. That's the only reason I'm still here. I would have been gone if I wasn't willing to change.

We're doing a birthday section. Because the first birthday section has been so strong, we're adding to that.

We have outfits to wear. We're doing toys that are appropriate for first birthday, tried and tested toys. Everything has won awards to be here.

Because that has been strong, we're going to add twos, threes and fours.

When you're taking those first pictures, the ones that are going to hang on the wall for a long time, it's not just your everyday stuff.

When are you going to add second, third and fourth birthday sections?

By the first of June. We're gearing everything up for our 25th birthday bash.

We're going to do monograms.

We're going to expand on what's working.

What do like most about your job?

I love being with people. I consider us a destination. When people come in here, they need something.

I value people's time, so I try to make it fun.

We're starting to see second generation, now. Kids that we dressed years ago are now coming in and buying baby furniture.

It's really fun to see the second generation coming through. I like to be part of that happiness. It's just fun.

Is there anything else you want readers to know?

I'm just very thankful and grateful we've had 25 years of doing this. I look forward to more. I hope that we're filling a need in the market.

It's a blessing that I get to do this. It really is.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526

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