Spotlight: Torly Kid

Because this site focuses on news, the businesses that have been around awhile—and that make this neighborhood special—don’t get the coverage they should. Photographs for the “Spotlight” series are by Claudine Williams Photography, a full-service photography studio specializing in portraits for families, individuals as well as personal and professional branding.

Carol Adams’s store, Torly Kid, has grown up with the neighborhood. She founded it in 2004 as Babylicious, and then renamed it—and broadened the age range—as kids in the area got older. “Having been here so long, I feel like I know everyone,” she says.

How did you get started in this business?
It’s been 14 years now…. My older daughter, Tori, was two and a half years old, and Carly was one. I had been working in finance, but when I stopped, I got bored being at home all the time. This shop used to be Happy Baby Toys—I saw it for sale on Craigslist. The owner had opened the shop five months earlier—she liked to open businesses and move on. So a partner and I bought it and named it Babylicious. After five years, we split, and I was on my own. In 2010, I began noticing that having the word “baby” in the name was a problem, because people only thought of it as a baby store. I’d hear women walking by and saying, “That’s a store for babies.” The kids in the neighborhood were growing up, and there was a real need for older kids’ clothes. So I shut the store down for two weeks, redesigned it, and reopened as Torly Kid, with ages 7 to 14 as the main market.

You lived in Tribeca at the time, right?
My husband and I raised our kids here. Both my kids will be in high school in the fall—one a junior, one a freshman—and they really did grow up here. They did all the dance classes and art classes; they hung out in Battery Park City. After 15 years in Tribeca, we moved, first to Chelsea for a couple of years, and then to Fort Greene. I love Fort Greene, but I do miss the real sense of neighborhood here.

What is Torly Kid known for?
What I hear most when people come in is the unique product, the curating. We’re known for unusual gifts, something you can’t find anywhere else.

How do you source stuff?
I travel a lot, so I’m constantly checking out what’s at other stores. And there are showrooms and trade shows, of course. It’s all about finding things that I like.

What’s the most satisfying part of what you do?
I love running my own business. I’m a person who gets bored really easily, so lots of activity is key. I love the challenge of having to know just a little bit about so many things, from managing my finances, to merchandising, to selling, and even to putting up shelving or lighting.

Most popular item?
Flipping sequins. They’re therapeutic! If I had one in my house, I’d never leave.

Most expensive?
I try to stay within a manageable price point for a boutique (so that’s already a bit higher than, say, the Gap). Our customer expects to be able to afford to shop here. That said, winter coats are probably the most expensive item we carry, and we might occasionally have a special dress that costs more than $100. But generally nothing is over $100.

Least expensive item?
We have so many little tchotchkes in the front of the store: add-ons to gifts, such as bracelets and stickers. And we always have a good sale section.

Your very favorite item right now?
The hamburger shirt in the window!

What percentage of your business is local?
A year ago, I would have said 80 to 90 percent. But over the last year, we’ve been getting a lot of people who have sought us out after reading about us online—they read we’re listed as the best kids’ store in New York, so they come here. I don’t know whether we’re popping up higher on Google or what, but we’re listed somewhere. So now I’d say it’s more like 70 percent local.

Tribeca has obviously changed a lot since you started. How have the changes affected your business?
We were among the first residents in 53 N. Moore after it was converted. It was funny we ended up there, because I used to work at Moody’s, so I’d often hang out in this area, and there was a total dive bar a block away from 53 N. Moore that I loved, and the 53 N. Moore block basically functioned as a homeless camp. As the neighborhood has grown, we’ve grown. This was a toy store when I bought it, and I started carrying stuff for newborns, then size two, size four, size six…. Now we’re up to size 16.

I bet there weren’t many kids’ stores back in 2004.
Koh’s Kids was here. Boomerang Toys. And Balloon Saloon, of course. But a ton have come and gone….

Tell me a good customer story.
There was a moment about three years ago when the expression “meh” was a thing among the tweens. I had a few camouflage knit hats with “meh” on them. A guy from California happens to walk in—and it turns out his last name is Meh, so he bought them all! He’s now a regular customer who comes back twice a year to shop with us.

Where do you eat/drink/shop around here?
Nish Nush for lunch. Laughing Man every day. Between Laughing Man and SoulCycle, I’m a Tribeca cliché! Walker’s and Takahachi have always been family favorites. As for shopping, my favorite store is Gloria Jewel on W. Broadway. I’m always sending people there when they’re wandering around the neighborhood and ask where else they should go.

What does the future hold?
I’m excited about our Brooklyn store, Torly & Tooby. Last August, we began a two-year collaboration with one of our vendors, Toobydoo. We call it a collaboration between curation and design. It’s in City Point, where Alamo Drafthouse is. It’s a very developing neighborhood—it reminds me of Tribeca 14 years ago. City Point is next to the discount shops in the Fulton Mall, so we’re considered expensive for the area. There’s a lot of teaching the clientele who and what we are. I will say that getting the opportunity to design a store a second time around was fantastic! Every mistake I made the first time, I fixed! There’s more space behind the register, all of the clothing faces out….

And what about your travel business, Torly Travels?
It takes a lot of hours to research a trip—not if you’re just going to a resort, where you can just book it and you’re done, but if you’re going to a city or exploring a country. Doing that research is what I love. I’ve been to a lot of places, but certainly not everywhere, so I sift through a gazillion pieces of info on the internet. Say a client wants to go to London. First, everyone in the family, even the kids, fills out a survey. The goal is to find out what kind of travelers they are. Then I build an itinerary around that: hotels, restaurants, activities, and so on. The cost is $400 for an  itinerary of what to do every day, including how to get around. I can handle the bookings, too, but that’s a little more expensive.

And the emphasis is on family travel?
Yes. We’re big travelers. Six years ago, we decided not to do summer camp anymore. I’m lucky, because I have the flexibility to travel instead. The first year, we went to Italy for six weeks. The next year, France, and then Spain. As the kids got older, we started taking on multiple countries—last year, it was Scandinavia and Amsterdam.

This summer?
That’s still in negotiation. We just went on an amazing hiking trip in Patagonia, so maybe we’ll hike Mont Blanc in Switzerland, along with exploring Germany and Austria. Or maybe we’ll go to Southeast Asia….

Previously in this series:
••• Tortola Salon
••• Souths
••• R & Company
••• Duane Park Patisserie
••• Chambers Street Wines
••• Sweet Lily Natural Nail Spa
••• Floratech
••• Steven Sclaroff
••• Roc
••• Estancia 460
••• Boomerang Toys
••• Antiqueria Tribeca
••• Real Pilates
••• Church Street School for Music and Art
••• Kings Pharmacy
••• Church Street Surplus
••• New York Nautical
••• Lance Lappin Salon
••• Joseph Carini Carpets
••• Donzella
••• A Uno
••• Balloon Saloon
••• Fountain Pen Hospital
••• Abhaya
••• Chambers Pottery
••• Square Diner
••• Langdon Florist
••• Tribeca Upholstery & Draperies
••• Double Knot
••• Philip Williams Posters


1 Comment

  1. I’d like to know who comes up with the clever riddles on the board outside the store. Great puns!