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The toy business is turning into a family business with mother-and-daughter duo Shelly Cassiday-Riesenmy and Erin Babb.
Together the two opened Speckled Frog Toys and Books, a store geared towards children between infancy and 10 years old. Their products are educational in nature, which is why every toy and book is chosen with care. “We’ve hand-picked everything that we carry. There’s nothing here that we carry that we wouldn’t want to play with ourselves,” Babb says.
Babb would also like to see parents play with their toys. “We’re very family-focused. We really like when families come in and they play together. There’s nothing here that they can’t play with” Babb says. “I know that some parents are worried about bringing in their rough-and-tumble kids, that they’ll mess up the store, but that’s not what we’re about. We want the kids to come in and play and have a good time.”
Location: 906 Alley A
A trendy new boutique store recently opened in downtown’s Alley A. Catering to full-figured women, Free Association offers fashionable women’s clothing in sizes 14 through 30.
Step inside and you’ll quickly see flowy skirts, jewelry from designers like Duplika and Tiny Lumber, vintage-inspired dresses, and tailored pants.
Co-owner Sarah Lockwood dreamed of opening a clothing store since she was a teenager. Earlier this year, that dream became a reality when she opened Free Association with her wife, Rebecca Burkholder.
When asked where the name of the boutique came from, Lockwood explains that, “it’s about being able to have a little retail therapy and throw items together in a fun and cool way.”
Walking through the store, you’ll notice the care and thoughtfulness that went into choosing every item that fills the space. This isn’t your average clothing store; it’s a shopping experience.
Location: 910 Alley A
Opening a bookstore in downtown Columbia just made sense to Alex George, owner of Skylark Bookshop.
“Every downtown needs a bookstore,” George explains. “Of course, there’s Yellow Dog, and they’re wonderful, but they sell used books, and we’re going to be selling new books. There’s going to be no competition between us.”
In addition to selling new books, Skylark will host author events. As a published author and founder of Columbia’s Unbound Book Festival, George has many connections in the publishing industry. George says author events will be “a critical part of what we do.”
The quality selection also carries over to the books. Skylark will be stocked with a curated inventory of books that George loves.
Though the inventory won’t be comprehensive, George says, “when you go into Skylark, you’re going to find something unusual that perhaps you wouldn’t have otherwise found.”
Location: 22 S. Ninth St.