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Expectant Couple Opens Baby Clothing Boutique in North Liberty

For North Liberty residents Nic and Kelly Mercer, opening a baby clothing boutique in their town just seemed like common sense.

“There just really seems to be kids everywhere in North Liberty,” Nic Mercer said. The median age of the city is 29, according to 2010 Census data.

“Those are the people that are most likely going to be expanding their families,” he said

And it didn’t hurt that the young couple is expecting their own child in the fall.

Their shop, Itsy Bitsy Boutique, opened in March in the North Liberty Plaza, 175 Highway 965 N.E. It sells new and consigned clothing with sizing for newborns through children’s 14/16, as well as accessories and art.

People can bring one bag of used clothing into the store at a time and can then choose between receiving 30 percent of the resale price in cash up front, 50 percent of the resale price when the item is sold or 55 percent of the resale price as store credit once the item is sold. The store is accepting spring and summer clothes, although Nic Mercer warned they’re “choosy” and won’t take anything with stains, tears or missing buttons.

Each person who sells clothing to the store is given a unique donor ID that goes with their clothing, and a Google Document is updated daily so they can check online to see if their items have sold, Nic Mercer said.

The 1,300-square-foot space is packed with homemade gift items such as candles, bath soaps, baby hair accessories, blankets, step stools and toys. The Mercers tout a “buy local” theme, and their collection of Iowa-made products feature such local names as Raygun from Des Moines and Iowa City, Wise Owl Designs from Decorah and Iowa City’s Whitties Knitties.

Kelly Mercer scoured for local artists. One of them was fellow North Liberty resident Barbie Ford, who has sold more than 200 of her homemade clothing items, blankets and accessories in the shop.

In a city filled with young families, Ford said she thinks the concept of combining local artisans with consignment items will do very well. It’s not always easy to find used clothing that’s in good condition, she said.

“There’s lots of young moms out there like me that want nice clothes but don’t necessarily want to pay top dollar for all of them,” Ford said.

North Liberty city administrator Ryan Heiar agreed the city is “extremely young,” and said he has a number of friends who recently had kids.

“Certainly baby items, baby clothing, are going to be a hot commodity here in North Liberty,” he said.

Kelly Mercer, 32, also works as a nurse for University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Nic Mercer, 34, left his job of 10 years at UI Pharmaceuticals in March to open the store, but he said he also hopes to enroll in nursing school in the near future. Right now, the couple staffs the store themselves but hopes to eventually hire employees.

The couple, married since August 2009, has lived in North Liberty since 2007.

Simply put, an evolving city like North Liberty needs a store like Itsy Bitsy Boutique, Nic Mercer said.

“It used to just be considered a bedroom community and now it’s become much more than that,” he said. “We hope to add to that and make North Liberty more of a destination-type place.”

Editor's Note: Kelly Mercer participated in FastTrac in fall 2011. FastTrac is offered by the UI's John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center and cosponsored by the Small Business Development Center.

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