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Archive for Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Used clothing retailer remains in family

New owner moves Animal Crackers to Ninth and Indiana

February 18, 2003

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It's a far cry from Carole Boulton's breakfast room.

Animal Crackers, the used children's clothing store Boulton founded in 1981, has a new owner and a new location.

Since mid-January, the store has been owned by Boulton's son Michael. It also has moved to 900 Ind. from 846 Ill.

Michael Boulton said it made sense to buy the store: He already owned an Animal Crackers store in Topeka. That one opened in 1992. And the move was made because of the opportunity to own 1,200 square feet of space instead of renting it.

"It's actually about the same size, but we thought the visibility was better and the opportunity to purchase the building came up," said Michael Boulton, who received a business degree from Kansas University in 1990.

The new location, in a space that had housed a beauty salon, was remodeled to give it a warmer appearance, he said. The area includes a children's play area and a changing table for use by customers.

The store buys and sells clothing for all seasons. The sizes range from infants to children's size 14. Children's toys, books and movies, as well as baby furniture and car seats, have become a big part of the store's business.

Though she's no longer the owner, Carole Boulton is working part time in her son's Lawrence store. She said she would miss the customers if she didn't.

"It's really a family business in that way, you just get to know the people so well," Carole Boulton said. "That's what made me teary-eyed when I gave it up ... it's my social group."

Carole Boulton started the business in 1981 by reselling clothes -- clothes that belonged to her 11 children -- on Saturdays from the breakfast room of her Lawrence home.

Michael Boulton, left, recently purchased Animal Crackers, 900
Ind., from his mother, Carole Boulton, right. Carole Boulton
started the business 22 years ago in her Lawrence home.

Michael Boulton, left, recently purchased Animal Crackers, 900 Ind., from his mother, Carole Boulton, right. Carole Boulton started the business 22 years ago in her Lawrence home.

It was a business started on a friend's dare, she recalled.

"She said, 'I dare you, Carole, to start a children's shop, because what do you have at your house? You have children,'" Carole Boulton said.

The business slowly expanded into the dining room as the number of customers increased to more than 300. After five or six months, Carole Boulton decided to move the business out of the house.

Despite relocating the business a couple of times, Carole Boulton said her customers had remained loyal -- and keep coming in.

Denise Cesare, Lawrence, is one of those customers.

"This has been an excellent idea, and my daughter is 16, so I know I've been coming in for the past 16 years, and now for my sons," Cesare said.

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