Volume 76, Number 15 | August 30 -September 5, 2006

Back to School

Villager photos by Jefferson Siegel

Above, Gayle Raskin, left, and Eva Dorsey show a pair of young customers some of their latest acquisitions.

Rebirth of a children’s and maternity resale store

By Frank Localo

When Jane’s Exchange, Manhattan’s largest children’s and maternity consignment store, lost its lease at 12th St. and Avenue A earlier this year, the East Village lost a valuable service for many families, not to mention a longtime community hub.

To its loyal customers’ relief, Jane’s Exchange found a new location in the neighborhood and is now back open for business.

Co-owners Gayle Raskin and Eva Dorsey are as amazed as their customers that they have managed to find a new space in their beloved East Village.

“The real estate market is prohibitive for the small business owner. We almost didn’t make it,” Raskin said, knocking on wood. “It took us five months to find an affordable space. If it weren’t for our customers’ encouragement and support, I don’t know if we could have done it.”

The new location, at 191 E. Third St., between Avenues A and B, is their biggest store yet.

“We need a lot of room because we take in a lot of great stuff,” added Dorsey. “Here, we have an office, storage space and a whole room for maternity and nursing clothes. We’re very excited about building up this part of our business. It is almost impossible to find affordable maternity and nursing clothes in Manhattan.”

Parents aren’t the only people happy about the store’s reopening. Children, many of whom have literally grown up in Jane’s Exchange over the past 13 years, have been excited to see the new space. Mason List, an 11-year-old East Villager, has generously donated his Brio train set for the new children’s play area, which also boasts a wooden kitchen — also made by a local East Villager — and a wooden-beaded roller coaster for small children. Teens make appointments to consign their Abercrombie and Paul Frank clothes and accessories. These teens, many of whom first entered Jane’s Exchange as nursing infants and toddlers, feel that they have a place that is theirs, too. It is not unusual to see Dorsey’s and Raskin’s teen girls hanging about the premises checking out the new consignments and helping in the store.

Jane’s Exchange is a true community store in every sense of the word. The store itself is a warehouse of community-donated items and services. Twelve purple lounge chairs, a gift from the trendy Hotel Gansevoort, dot the store for weary shoppers and nursing moms to use. A longtime consigner, mother and designer Randi Halpern volunteered her services in designing the bright and colorful walls. Lisa Daniels, a Harlem-based Web designer and mother, is helping set up a Web site for the store. Carrie Auerbach, a customer and mother of 2-year-old Dexter, has just volunteered her husband, Anthony Armstrong, an electrician and carpenter, to help with the finishing touches that will continue after the store opens.

Lest one think Jane’s Exchange is a store only, be forewarned. Kevin Miceli, father and owner of Ciao for Now, a popular East Village cafe, describes the store as “a vital, if not essential, component in the lives of not only local families but families from all over the greater New York City area.” In addition to consigning and selling affordable clothing and children’s gear, Jane’s Exchange has become a place where parents come for events, referrals and support for the numerous challenges facing today’s urban families. In a letter to Community Board 3 when Jane’s Exchange was seeking the board’s help in finding a new location, Lise Engel, mother of 12-year-old twins, wrote: “It is not often that a store moves beyond the basic requirements of selling goods and making a profit to serving some very fundamental needs of a community.”

Jayme Adachi, a mother and writer, concurred: “It is more than a store. It is there that I learned the best way to burp my baby, there that I found out about local babysitters, there that I found students when I began teaching neighborhood baby-and-me yoga classes, there that I made tentative inquiries into the neighborhood schools.”

At a time when chain stores are taking over and prices of everything continue to rise, Jane’s Exchange is a unique oasis with a wide variety of styles and brands at prices unheard of elsewhere in the city.

“I don’t know if we’ll be able to move again,” said Dorsey. “But we have a 10-year lease, and that’s another generation of kids and consignments and doing what we love to do.”

Jane’s Exchange takes consignments by appointment. Hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, noon-6 p.m. The store takes in children’s (infancy to teens) and maternity clothes, furniture, ExcerSaucers, bouncy seats, carriages, shoes, boots, books, videos, toys, games, etc. All items must be in good condition. The consigner gets a percentage of the selling price to use as credit in the store.

Jane’s Exchange will host a reopening celebration on Sun. Oct. 15, starting at noon. There will be children’s and teen activities, live entertainment and refreshments.

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