By Toni Williams
After 40 years in retail Tots To Teens owner Annette Fyfe has sold her business.
It’s a bittersweet moment.
It’s the right time for Annette to leave, but for a woman who loves her job, considers her staff Philippa (Phil) McGregor, Maree Allan and Belinda Cawte as great friends and enjoys being a member of the Ashburton Arcade business community, it also brings a certain sadness.
“I still love the shop, the lovely customers and the staff. They are more like friends, than staff, I look forward to continuing our friendships,” she said.
Annette bought the business in February 1980 after visiting the shop, which was originally called Tiny Tots and sat on the corner of East and Burnett streets.
It was a small shop which sold clothing for children aged up to five-year-olds.
Annette, a stay-at-home-mum at the time, loved it so much on visiting she mentioned to owner, Belle Lowe, if she ever wanted to sell to let her know. And she did, straight away.
It was perfect timing for Annette as her children, aged five and six, were at school.
She had time on her hands and energy to grow the business.
By the time building owner Bede O’Malley was looking to expand his pharmacy into the Tiny Tots site, Annette, with a growing business on her hands, was also keen for bigger premises.
“It was perfect, I wanted a bigger shop.”
She moved into the arcade premises and in later years extended the shop, removing the wall of the neighbouring premises.
Over time there have been other changes; from extending the clothing age from tots to teenagers, increased footwear range and access to some exclusive labels such as Nature Baby, Merino Kids, and Little Flock of Horrors (LFOH), Hello Stranger and Eve’s Sister, Bobux and other quality labels.
Then around 10 years ago, the introduction of the school uniform range.
Annette says with the school uniforms and footwear she wanted to make sure parents got a good deal on quality products that would last.
When it comes to the fashion clothing and footwear, selecting the fashions six months in advance and seeing the samples is one of Annette’s favourite tasks, which she does with manager Phil.
Annette says all three staff will continue in their roles post-sale which she was very happy about as their experience has allowed her to work part-time at the shop for the past few years.
Time has sped by and Annette feels “very lucky to have enjoyed that time so much” and is seeing the next generation of customers coming in to buy clothing.
“The children who were clothed in the early days, are now coming back into the shop as adults to dress their own children.”
As well as the parents who are now grandparents, which she loves seeing.
While she has been reluctant to sell, Annette, 68, says it was time for her to pull back.
The business was on the market for just two weeks before it was snapped up.
It’s been surreal how fast it has happened but Annette is excited for her future and that of the company. She feels very proud to be handing over a successful business which, in new hands, will have a chance to expand and grow further with an online presence.
She also gets to spend more time with husband Ian, family and friends and, continue with another passion, as a line-dancing teacher teaching two evening classes a week.