When Joy and Joshua Herbert started selling cloth diapers from their home in 2009, their second child was just a baby. Now, their children, their family and their business — Little Neetchers — have all grown bigger.
“It’s kind of crazy because it doesn’t really feel like that long ago, but then I look at my kids and I’m like, ‘Whoa!’” Joy Herbert said.
Little Neetchers has grown so much that it's moving to a space twice the size of its current spot at 5628 Grand Ave. in West Duluth. The Herberts opened their storefront in 2013 and expanded to the adjacent space about three years ago, adding a play area for children.
Joy Herbert said they’d been looking into moving to a larger space around that time, but the last few years of success of the play area have confirmed that it’s the right move for the Herberts' business.
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The new location of Little Neetchers will be in the 3,800-square-foot retail space on the first floor of the Enger Lofts development at 1832 W. Superior St. in Lincoln Park. In addition to what they currently offer — diapers, gear, toys and clothing for children — they will be adding a cafe, a workstation for parents and a larger play space for the children.
“Right now it’s all one little space. We have plans to create a smaller kids’ area that’s kind of their own space so they don’t get run over by the bigger kids,” Herbert said. “I think that will help parents with smaller babies feel more comfortable letting their kids explore that area.”
She said she's heard from many parents that there aren't many indoor spaces in Duluth for children to play, so Herbert is looking forward to offering a larger area for families to use.
Little Neetchers is currently using an online signup for the play area to keep the capacity limit in check, and to make sure children and families aren’t turned away at the door. Herbert said, at this time she plans to continue using the registration system at the new location.
There will also be a space that can be used for birthday parties without having to close the rest of the store like they currently have to. They will also continue to have classes for community members.
Little Neetchers will be in one of 12 retail spaces at Enger Lofts, in the former Furniture and Mattresses 4 Less building, which was home to several furniture stores between 1909 and 2018. Enger Lofts is spearheaded by Duluth-based developer and general contractor 1 LLC. The upper floors of the building will have residential apartments.
“We’re super grateful for the opportunity to get to work together with Little Neetchers and to be a part of that neighborhood and community with this project,” said Josh Macinnes, director of development and president at 1 LLC.
Herbert said after being in West Duluth for almost a decade, she’s found a community of business owners and customers that have been a necessary support system, especially throughout the coronavirus pandemic. She wasn’t sure if she could keep her business afloat at all, let alone swing the expansion, but people have offered her support along the way.
“I think during COVID, people realized the importance or how much they relied on or loved their local small businesses,” she said.
State Rep. Liz Olson, who represents west Duluth, has been a longtime customer and supporter of Little Neetchers.
"This is exactly the sort of business parents are looking for to find clothes and other baby goods as an alternative to online or big box retailers," Olson said. "I’m hopeful when we put COVID behind us we can all rally around them by taking advantage of their gathering space."
Other Duluth business owners have also helped with aspects that will be new to the Herberts, like running a cafe or managing a larger payroll. They plan to hire about five part-time employees, plus a full-time manager.
“Everybody has had my back if I’ve reached out and said I need help,” Herbert said.
Little Neetchers' West Duluth store is still open. It's slated to reopen in Lincoln Park in June.
“I like to know that it’s not just a business,” Herbert said. “It’s creating this community that’s supportive for parents of little kids. That’s kind of always been my thing.”