Labor of Love 

Mothers give birth to store, nurture it through infancy.

Some people call shopping "retail therapy." But for the women who frequent Mothersville, the store is a nurturing environment where they can take classes in baby sign language, breast-feed on one of the comfy couches, or just talk with other mothers.

"That's part of why I chose the name," says Kristy Alley, the mother of four who founded the store in 2003. "I wanted it to be not just a store but a place where women could go and hang out."

Mothersville's first location in the Chickasaw Oaks Village provided Memphians with products slightly outside the mainstream. "Baby stores in Memphis tend to be cram-full of smock dresses," says Alley. "People would come in and say, 'What is this store?' ... A lot of people thought it was a maternity store, but that was never the focus."

Instead, the store featured products such as slings that secure the baby onto the wearer's body, leaving mommy's or daddy's hands free. Plus, having amassed a stockpile of knowledge from having her (then three) children, Alley felt she had advice to pass on.

"I would read about products in baby magazines and online, and here there was nothing," she says. "I wanted to have a place where mothers could talk to someone who not only knew what a breast pump was but how to use it, not some 17-year-old kid working at Babies 'R Us."

When Alley decided it was time to step away from her retail baby, now located in Cooper-Young, two other mothers "adopted" it.

"I think some women felt like Mothersville had made a big difference in their experience, and they wanted it to be around not only when they had another baby but for other new mothers," says Alley.

Andria Cline (pictured) was one of those mothers. Cline began going to Mothersville after learning from a friend that the store carried some of the products she had been researching on the Internet.

"Parenting is something people feel so deeply about that those parents who decide to go out of the mainstream feel even more isolated than the typical new parent does," says Cline. "For example, if you're co-sleeping with your baby and everyone is telling you that your baby is going to be sleeping with you until they go to the prom, having a place where you can see other parents who are doing the same thing -- and whose children have turned out perfectly reasonably and with no tendency for serious murder -- is very important."

She originally partnered with another mother to run the store, but when her partner dropped out, she took on the responsibility alone.

"Partly, I think because I was not the originator of the store, I feel responsible for it but not the owner of it," says Cline. "I did feel very much like I was taking on a trust from Kristy. I wanted to see her vision realized and do what I could to move it forward."

Cline says that the store's success is about balancing retail and resources. The retail element allows the rest of the business to function. Providing the products is very important, but it's a convenient way to provide a space for moms to meet.

The irony, perhaps, is that Cline is pregnant with her second child, and she needs to take a break. She is currently looking for another buyer to continue the store.

"It's really just a matter of wanting the store to go onto the next mom -- or group of moms -- who believe in the mission and have the commitment to bring their own talents to it," she says. ●

Mothersville, 800 S. Cooper, (272-0081),

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Speaking of Mothersville, Kristy Alley


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