COMMUNITY POST: A Holiday Message from Diaper Lab

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Dear Local Families,

We are writing today to encourage you to support your independent retailers this holiday season. Like many other retail businesses, we at Diaper Lab are finding this year particularly difficult. In our niche of independent children’s stores, most across the country are struggling to stay afloat and many are going out of business entirely. We only have to look across our parking lot to see Stella Bella’s Davis Square location closing. Remember Twinkle Star, Bird by Bird, Calliope, Greenward and Isis Parenting? Those are all stores that were once here in Camberville/Boston, and most opened around the same time we did. Eight years later, we are the only one of this group that remains.

We understand that people are changing the way they shop­­—we personally are not immune to the allure of online shopping and big clearance sales. But the ease and convenience doesn’t come without a price, which as a community, we will all collectively pay. For better or worse, our neighborhoods will change as well.

Here at Diaper Lab, we aren’t just business owners, we are residents of the community and have a vested interest in our neighborhood landscape, and we hope you do too. But who will your preschool and grade schools turn to for donations and support when we are all gone? Where will you drop into for a clean place to change a diaper? Who will host hot chocolate and cookies after your family bike ride? Where will the music classes be held?

It is becoming more challenging each year to run a small, community­-focused retail store. Real estate costs for retails storefronts in our neighborhood are very high, and far exceed the cost of running a “digital only” storefront. As a small business with limited staff, we don’t have teams of people to optimize the shopping experience and deliver immediate gratification like the mega­retailers can. What we do have are products you can touch and staff with expertise. We love the products we carry and have invested our time and energy to become your local experts. Which is why many of our customers tell us that they wouldn’t be able to cloth diaper without our assistance. As a result we’ve been a huge force in keeping literally millions of disposable diapers out of landfills in greater Boston and beyond. It has brought us great joy over the years to be able to play an important role in the lives of the families who shop with us.

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But more and more frequently our conversations aren’t with customers, they are with “showroomers”—people who come in to get information on products (because they know what Amazon will say when they call to ask which product will work best with their child or how to get the stains or smells out of their diapers), but then turn elsewhere to make their purchases, leaving only with a thank you. As passionate as we are about cloth diapering and babywearing, as much as we love helping new parents, “thank you” does not pay our employees, pay our rent, or pay to fill the shelves with products. That only happens when our customers buy our products and services.

We love our community and our customers, but on the increasing number of days we’ve spent busily answering questions for a store full of people while the sales don’t even cover our expenses, we have to ask ourselves the obvious question. We have never expected to get rich running our business, and in fact we’ve taken very little from it over the years. But at some point a business must be a business, and the time we take away from our family must be time well spent.

We believe in what we do and are not throwing in the towel just yet. But we do have to make changes this coming year in order to ensure that Diaper Lab can stay in place as a community resource. We are still working through how the business will evolve, but we know it is the only hope we have of being here next holiday season. Even then it is not certain unless our community­­and you­­take action to ensure support for us and other local retailers.

So this holiday season, please remember that shifting even a small portion of your holiday shopping to local retailers can make a real difference. We will continue to support our community as we have in years past by providing a living wage to our employees, hiring and allowing parents to bring their children to work and providing a resource for young families in our community. So whether you shop with Diaper Lab, or Magpie Kids, Magic Beans, Stella Bella or Henry Bear’s Park, shop local this holiday season and watch your dollars make a meaningful contribution to your community.

Wishing your family and all families a very Happy Holiday season,

Ryan Frazier and Salina Gonzales Frazier
Owners of Diaper Lab
15+ Year Residents of Camberville
Parents of the 2 original Diaper Lab babies