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Childrens nearly new family-operated boutique gives back to Ripon community
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The Mauerman family always ready to greet Ripon customers at their Kinder Garden Boutique with their slightly used clothes and toys. Jeff and Gabrielle are surrounded by their four children, from left, Lilly, 3; Sacha, 16; Max, 19; and Grace, 9. - photo by GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin
RIPON -The Kinder Garden Boutique in downtown Ripon is all about family – theirs, ours and yours.

The Mauerman family – all six of them – is there to welcome you whether at the counter or in the back doing chores.  It’s all about clothes that have been worn once or twice and are outgrown with parents keeping them in their drawers and closets – not wanting to throw them out.

Gabrielle and Jeff Mauerman have taken the old bank building at the corner of Main Street and Stockton Avenue and transformed it into a children’s boutique of “nearly new” clothes and toys promising that their customers will not find a missing button or a separated seam.

The couple decided on opening the boutique after husband Jeff lost his IT computer job at the Livermore Lab in the economic downturn and subsequent layoffs.  She said she got the idea while talking with other moms in Ripon when dropping her children off at Weston school in the mornings.

In their daily curbside chats, the women noted that there was no place in Ripon where they could pick up inexpensive clothes or toys for their children – not wanting to drive out of town more than necessary.  “It’s either matching T-shirt day or Hawaiian day where they just need to pick something up quick,” she said. Also, moms need extra clothes to leave at grandma’s house for their children when they go there to visit.

“We wanted to do something that we knew was needed in the community, a blessing to our community.  So one of the things we offer is consignment for charity partnered with the PFCs at Ripon schools as well as some of the churches where people can donate the items to be sold and the funds can go to those organizations,” she said.

The churches include Grace Brethren and two Christian Reformed churches normally receive 50 percent of the sale price, she added.  The store is also partnered with SNAFU, an organization that puts together programs and fights for the rights of educationally handicapped children growing up in the community.  She added that SNAFU is currently pushing for a park for children with lacking sensory abilities at Mistlin Park.

Asked how many hours a week she works brought laughter, “The computer at home is connected to the computers here and I take work home with me,” she said.  “I have to remind myself to take some time off!”

The family members working in the store include Max, 19, who recently graduated from Ripon High School.  Sacha, going on 16, Grace is 9, and Lilly is almost 3.  

“I love them dearly – they are my life,” she said of her children who are always in the store.  

Lilly currently goes to Grace Brethren Preschool, saying “it’s a great preschool program there.”

When Lilly reports for work she goes to the play area that is set up for the clients who come into the store as well as something for their children to play on.  At three, she is good at climbing on her siblings and her parents.

“She likes to reorganize the toys - perhaps you should say she tries out all the toys.  She’s kind of a mascot; she greets everyone at the door.”

Sacha, 16 and Max, 19, do a little bit of everything – they are both very hard workers, she added.

“Right now they are playing in the back.  She is either watching Lilly, changing her clothes, tagging clothes or keeping track of things in the back room, cleaning, vacuuming.  She dresses our mannequins – when she dresses the mannequins and when people come in, they actually buy the outfits.  When I dress them they stay on the mannequins,” she chuckled.