At this point in the interviewing game, we can safely say that we are experts at spotting passionate business owners. Of course one of the benefits of interviewing small business owners is that a majority of the time, they are testing the entrepreneurial waters because they LOVE their craft. It shines through in the way they talk about their businesses, through the countless hours they spend on their labors of love, and through the care put into even the smallest detail in their shops. Such was the case this week when we entered Heart of Gold for the first time. It’s no secret that we love Berlin and its burgeoning shopping scene, so when we caught wind of the latest retail store, we scheduled an interview immediately. Once inside, the playful and magical spirit of Heart of Gold Kids quickly took hold; in fact, shopping took precedent and interviewing was immediately put on the proverbial back-burner as we eagerly rummaged through the store. Items purchased and ogling complete, we were ready to learn more about Heart of Gold.
“This is something we don’t have in Berlin. It’s definitely a niche we’ve been missing,” said Berlin native and Heart of Gold owner Emily Vocke. Since having a child a little over a year ago, Vocke, who lives on Main Street with her husband and young son, had noticed that the area was lacking in kid’s clothing boutiques. Certainly we have the outlets and the major stores, but unique clothing items were few and far between. “I started noticing that you go to gatherings and everyone’s kids are wearing the same thing,” said Vocke, who was turning to online shopping more and more for items that she would prefer to be purchasing locally. “Especially for baby showers and first birthday parties. I wanted to be able to shop local,” she said. The answer? Open her own shop of course!
We should note that Vocke happened to have a secret weapon in her pocket (well, besides that adorable son of hers). Vocke had recently left Uptown Cheapskate after five years of managing the regional stores, which included opening several of their Maryland locations. On top of her extensive retail experience, Vocke also has a degree in fashion marketing. Combining her loves of fashion and her son seemed like the logical step for her next career move. “Once I had Oliver, my focus really changed. Once you have a baby, that’s where all you money goes,” quipped Vocke, noting how her fashion focus had quickly gone from her own wardrobe, to her son’s. A few months later, Heart of Gold Kids was born.
To say Vocke has good taste would be an understatement, the store is sprinkled with sweetness and peppered with aesthetic appeal, from the playful décor to the creative tees. We were instantly taken with the leggings, bibs and booties artfully displayed in the center of the store, so we were thrilled when Vocke informed us that they are made by local Berliner, Claire Waggoner. Waggoner is a fellow mom and close friend of Vocke, so commissioning her to design and sew items for the store seemed like a no-brainer. Quilts, leggings, bibs, booties, teethers, crib sheets and t-shirts are just a few of the items Waggoner produces for Heart of Gold.
The rest of the store is comprised of items handpicked by Vocke, from onesies to hats. Expect unique pieces, with a fashion forward flair. “I tried to do as much ‘Made in the US’ as possible, along with organic cottons,” explained Vocke. Currently, the age range is newborn to 5T, but the sky is seemingly the limit for Vocke, who plans on staying attuned to what the customers want. In addition to clothes, there are also a few games and novelty items, such as baby books and nursery décor. There is also a section of the store dedicated to new and expecting mamas. “I definitely want to expand that section and create a good mama corner,” she said. Speaking of mamas, expect to see Vocke’s own mother behind the counter, along with her collection of handmade jewelry. Pictured below, Debi Dean Custom Jewelry has garnered a major online following over the past few years, and will be a permanent fixture in the store. “She does a lot of custom jewelry as well, so definitely baby names,” said Vocke.
Vocke also hopes to become the area’s go-to shop for baby gifts, be it for baby showers, birthday parties, or ‘just because’. Vocke also envisions offering custom gift baskets for customers. So for example, a customer arrives looking to spend $50 on a birthday gift, Vocke will pull together items for a basket that meets their budget and wishes.
The whimsical feel of the shop permeates every nook and cranny, with fun tees, adorable accessories, and unique finds. “I feel like clothing should be a form of self-expression, so with kids, it should be fun and unique,” said Vocke. Fun and unique is precisely what you’ll discover when you visit Heart of Gold Kids. Located at 116 Board Street in Berlin, stop by and say ‘hello’ Tuesday through Saturday from 10am until 5pm(ish). In the meantime, take a look at our own visit to the shop! (Photos by Gina Whaley)