Sweet Baby James grand opening today in downtown Alpena

News Photo by Darby Hinkley Sisters Baillie James, left, and Mollie Allen pose in the middle of their new children’s clothing boutique, which holds its grand opening today at 200 N. 2nd Ave. in downtown Alpena.

ALPENA — “Happy little humans shop here.”

That’s what the sign says at Sweet Baby James, a new children’s boutique in downtown Alpena. Happy big humans, from parents to grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends, will enjoy shopping here, too, for unique children’s clothing, toys and accessories.

Today is the store’s grand opening from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 200 N. 2nd Ave., across from Cabin Creek Coffee.

Sisters Baillie James and Mollie Allen co-own the boutique. They came up with the name based on their maiden name, James. The idea has been in the works for about seven years, but they signed the lease and took over the space on May 1. It is the former location of Alpena Vintage Co.

“I would say for about seven years, we’ve been thinking about it,” James said. “And the building came up for rent, and we knew that we had to grab it quickly.”

In addition to their maiden name being James, the James Taylor song ties into it, as well.

“My dad was always a big James Taylor fan, so we kind of grew up with the song,” Allen said. “So, we had the name picked for the store before the store was even close to being a reality.”

James is a teacher down in Birmingham, and she taught virtually this year. So her schedule was more flexible, which allowed her time to work on preparing to open the store.

James has an almost 8-month-old little boy named Trooper, who has been modeling many of the adorable onesies and outfits on the shop’s Facebook page in a segment called “Trooper Tuesday.” Their nieces Lou and Wilder can also be seen on Facebook modeling many of the little girls’ outfits.

James said she noticed that the selection of boys’ clothes is usually quite limited, and she wanted to offer more unique styles for the the little ones.

“I like to dress (Trooper) in pretty cute attire, so I thought we should bring a baby store to Alpena,” James said.

Some of the T-shirts and onesies say things like “Be A Good Human,” “Tree Hugger,” “Wild At Heart,” and “Love You to the Beach and Back.”

“We just kind of saw a need,” Allen added. “There’s not really anywhere besides a big box store to go anymore. JCPenney’s left, and that was really the only other baby option.”

Allen said keeping the items affordable is important to them, too.

“We tried really hard to hit different price points because you want anybody who walks in to feel like they can afford something,” Allen said.

The store carries sizes from infant up to 8 youth.

“Clothes that you don’t see every day on a baby is my vision,” James said.

Her sister, on the other hand, specializes in clothes that kids “wear on Tuesday.” In other words, every day kind of clothes, so they have a good balance.

The sisters said they did not have any concerns about opening their shop during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I feel like things are starting to open up, and it’s kind of a light at the end of the tunnel for some people,” James said. “This is something new and exciting, along with other stores that are opening in Alpena, and we’re trying to bring people back to downtown Alpena. And I feel like this is a good opportunity to do that.”

Sweet Baby James hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

Allen also co-owns Cabin Creek Coffee with her parents, Kevin and Peggy James. She co-owns The Local Basket Case with her significant other, Gary Compeau, also in downtown Alpena.

Despite the pandemic, “We had a really healthy summer last year at the coffee shop and The Basket Case, so I feel like people are gravitating toward Northern Michigan,” especially in the summer, Allen said. “I feel like a lot of people have relocated to live here. So, I feel confident.”

When asked if she was taking over downtown Alpena, Allen said with a smile, “not intentionally, but it just seems to be working that way.”


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