What started out as way to help pay family expenses has turned into a labor of love for Amanda Lasky. With her husband, Greg, she has become an owner/operator of Next Stop Kids Shop in downtown Waupaca.
In 2014, Amanda Lasky began working as one of two employees at the shop that sells new and gently used baby and children’s clothes, accessories and toys. By the next year, the owners were looking to get out of the busi- ness.
“Amanda told me the owners wanted to sell and suggested we buy it,” Greg said. “We thought it over for a few months and decided to go for it. That was February 2015. It is something that just fell into our laps.”
At the time, Amanda was working in the healthcare field and Greg was a journeyman at a local company. Today, he works full time at Sturm Foods in Manawa and fills in at their store after 4 p.m. to relieve his wife so she can head to her part-time job elsewhere. The store is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays during the summer. In winter, it is closed on Mondays and only open until 1 p.m. on Saturdays.
It isn't the money that keeps them working on Next Stop Kids Shop, it is the mission and what they can do for their community, the Laskeys said. The store’s mission, which is posted on a board by the cashier desk along with pictures of their growing son reads:
“At Next Stop Kids Shop, our personal mis- sion is to offer the opportunity for parents of any income class to buy gently used children's clothing & accessories at affordable prices ... Kids grow up fast and we understand that, our goal is to make those growing pains a little less painful.”
This mission is very personal for the cou- ple. In 2015, they were expecting twins, who arrived prematurely in July. Amanda was taken to Froedert Hospital in Milwaukee, where she delivered Emmet and Scott.
As they relate on their website: “A twin-to- twin transfusion claimed the life of Scott, but we managed to save Emmet. It was a bitter- sweet event for us. We were forced to put our lives on hold for three months as we trekked back and fourth from Waupaca to Milwaukee every week. When our community heard what happened, support came from people who visited the shop on the three days a week we ran it, local businesses that offered donation jars to help cover with normal and shop expenses, and even former classmates shared the fami- ly's Gofundme page so we can keep up with transportation costs. We will always be indebted to our community for all the support it showed in our time of need.”
It was a difficult time, but they worked diligently to keep the store open. “You don’t expect something like that to happen,” Amanda Lasky said. “Juggling the store, being with the baby ... It definitely was very hard. And, I must say, Greg really stepped up,” she said giving her husband a big smile.
“When something like that happens, the world doesn’t stop. You have to press on and do what you have to do,” Greg said.
After this major setback, which he called “a good pause,” they returned to their fledgling business. “The driving force is our son, Scott, who passed away,” he said. “The shop is a way to honor his memory.”
Every year, the Laskeys hold a fundraiser for the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Eastern Wisconsin, where they stayed while Emmet was in the NIC unit in Milwaukee. For one week every year — around the time when their sons were born —10 percent of sales go to the charity.
In addition, they “also have done yearly fundraising for the Dylan John Thorne Memorial Fund. The Thorne family lost their son to a drunk driver in 2012. They started the memorial fund to raise funds for the locker rooms at the high school football field from which he had graduated that year. They also raise aware- ness for drunk driving fatalities and the effect they leave behind for all involved.
“We're always happy to do fundraising weeks for charities or causes,” the couple writes on their website.
About 95 percent of the items in the store fall into the gently used category, but it also has wholesale products from a couple of retail brands. One of these is Love Your Melon hats and beanies. This company donates some of its prof its to fighting pediatric cancer causes.
“What we are doing,” Amanda said, “is trying to provide our community with affordable clothing items for babies and kids.” They figure the age range from newborn to age 13. In addition to clothing and toys, the store also has baby furniture and items, such as swings and strollers at times. They carefully check all items to make sure they are in good working order and aren’t under any recalls.
The store also offers a discount program.
People who donate items receive a discount on their next purchase. Discounts can be shared or transferred.
“We have seen growth over the past five years,” Amanda said. “We hope to make it as long as we can” because they believe they are filling a need in their community.
As to the future, Greg said he would like to open a second store, perhaps in Stevens Point. His goal would be to keep them on Main Street — in downtowns.
For the present, Next Stop Kids Shop continues to be a family-run operation with just the three of them.
“Emmet is our unofficial mascot,” his dad said. He entertains young customers while their parents shop, helps with the cleaning and serves as doorman when customers leave.