BY SHALEEN DESTEFANO
Between the eye-catching name and the warm earth-tones spilling from the adorable shop window, it’s nearly impossible to keep from walking inside the neighborhood boutique, Broomtail. In fact we should warn you, that even if you don’t currently have young children, you’ll find yourself shopping for kids you don’t even know yet, on the off chance that you can gift them something from this perfectly curated shop.
Owner Maris Johansson found a gem of a location on the beautiful tree-lined block on Kentucky, sandwiched between Common Salon, and RedCamper. What she didn’t know she’d be signing up for when she opened up, was that it would be days before a huge pandemic shut down everything in the city. But she, like other resilient local business owners, weathered the storm and is still standing, with a huge smile on her face at that. We feel lucky to know Maris and to have had the opportunity to tell her story.
I was that kid on the bus hawking homemade jewelry to my friends in grade school and obsessively reading The Babysitters Club, determined to come up with my own kid-run empire. When I was pregnant with my first child, my husband and I took a “babymoon” to Santa Fe where we popped into a local children’s boutique and got to talk to the owner. After weeks of reading every advice article online and stressing about having the right items on our registry, it was so refreshing to connect with someone so knowledgeable and personable. We walked away with a few items (and even knew the names and stories of the local artisans who had made them) and from that moment, I started dreaming up a shop of my own. After working for an eCommerce startup for four years here in Denver and having a second child, I was ready for a change. With two small children it was a challenging time to set out on my own, but I decided the time I was away from them, I needed to be doing something I truly believed in and loved.
I rode horses growing up and had many equestrians in my family. My favorite toy was a hobby horse that I would ride around the house and yard; printed on the side of the horse’s plastic head is the name “Broomtail.” I keep the original hobby horse in the basement at the shop (my kids almost loved it to death) and every time I see it, I’m reminded of the joy and adventure that we get to experience as children and that I hope to foster and celebrate at Broomtail.
We were instantly drawn to your aesthetic. How do you select the makers you work with?
At Broomtail, our primary focus is on feel-good play clothes. Dressing my own children, I was always surprised at how impractical some children’s garments are. I like to try out a brand at home first so I feel confident standing behind the quality and fit before carrying it in the shop. There are so many amazing brands and makers in the kid space that are led by moms following a dream just like myself. I love being a part of this ecosystem and introducing these items and the stories behind them to our customers.
You opened your doors not long before the world shut down. How has the Wash Park Community embraced you since having opened?
I opened my doors on May 12, 2020 just after Denver was coming out of a stay-at-home order. I vividly remember that first day being so nervous setting up my “open” sign out front and having the thought run through my head “what if no one shows up?” Everyone remembers their first few customers, but I will never forget every smiling face that walked through the door on that first day. I looked for my space for over 9-months and I truly believe I could not have found a better location, or community for Broomtail.
One of my favorite things about starting Broomtail has been getting to know and to connect with so many other women-owned businesses here in Denver and across the country. I have benefited immensely from the advice and support I’ve received from other business-owners. I’ve often found myself shuttling messages back and forth with other shop-owners trying to brainstorm solutions and simply checking in on business. I have seen small business owners put so much on the line over the past two years and I am encouraged by how much support I’m seeing for shopping small and local, but we aren’t out of the woods yet.
Do you have any words of wisdom for all of us working parents?
I generally feel too much advice is given to working parents! This shit is hard! Through the shop, I have gotten to witness so many different and beautiful expressions of love and care for children. As parents, I think we’re too quick to judge and self-criticize, or feel like we aren’t measuring up. So instead of offering advice, I prefer to offer support and someone to laugh or cry with over a glass of wine.
How do you like to spend your time when you’re not in the shop?
I loved growing up in Denver and feel fortunate to be raising my kids here as well. We try to take advantage of all the amazing parks and museums we have here in the city and to get up to the mountains whenever we can. When I’m not chasing my kids around, I’m probably trying to sneak in a nap and finish that book for Book Club.
After a tough year of playing defense through covid, I’m excited to start dreaming again and to explore new ideas that will help grow our Broomtail community. You’ll definitely be seeing a lot of new brands and categories come to the shop—I’ve learned so much about what our customers are looking for over the past year, that I’m really excited for everyone to see all the amazing clothes, accessories, toys and books we have coming this fall and winter. We’ve also had a great response to some of our pop-ups, so we’ll be looking to partner locally for more events in the shop and around town. Also, stay tuned for some neighborhood appreciation days this holiday season!
Maris, it has been our pleasure getting to know you over the last year and we hope to see your store blossom for many moons to come. Go visit Maris and check out the adorable clothes, books, toys and more for the littles in your life. You’ll find her at 1931 E. Kentucky Ave Tue-Fri 10am-5pm and Sat and Sun 11am – 4pm.