Boston Parents Paper Best of the Best 2011
Our Family Favorite Award Winners
Favorite Shoe Store
The Barn Family Shoe Store
25 Kempton Place, West Newton
A trusted old-fashioned shoe store with all the latest fashions – Ugg, Merrell, Clarks, Sano – is how our readers describe The Barn Family Shoe Store. With a wide selection of shoes, sneakers, dress shoes, boots and even cleats, the store is one-stop shopping for the whole family. The store opened back in 1948 and loyal customers who shopped for shoes here as kids relish the chance to return with their children – and grandchildren.
With locations in many area malls, Massachusttes-born Stride-Rite is praised for its convenience by moms shopping with kids in strollers. The store size and the selection are easy to navigate and the staff is always willing to measure foot sizes and make recommendations. Parents of children with wide feet say they especially appreciate the store brands, and many say they are willing to pay a little more for a quality-made shoe.
Favorite Sporting Goods Store
Modell’s Sporting Goods
When your son or daughter suddenly needs those soccer shin pads or baseball batting gloves on the eve of the season opener, there’s comfort in knowing that a trip to your local Modell’s will solve your problem. The family-owned chain has the equipment you need for every sport, as well as the latest in footwear and team apparel – like Bruins Stanley Cup Champions T-shirts and other fun memorabilia. There’s also a large supply of equipment for outdoor activities, ranging from ice skating to boating to mountain biking. Sign up for the Modell’s rewards card to earn sizable money rewards for store purchases.
Play It Again Sports
Seven Massachusetts locations
Kids grow so fast that it’s no fun shelling out big bucks for hockey skates that will be too small by the time the season ends. Play It Again Sports solves this problem for families: The staff buys your old sports equipment and then sells off used gear in great condition at fabulous prices. They also carry new sports equipment, sharpen skates and are a go-to spot for bikes and helmets, for kids and adults. Locations are in Chelmsford, Dedham, Framingham, Hyannis, Leominster, North Reading and Stoneham.
Favorite Kids’ Casual Wear
With a fun, hip vibe, Old Navy continues to be the go-to place for cute kids’ clothes that won’t break the bank. Let’s face it: these are not clothes of heirloom quality that will be passed down from generation to generation. Old Navy offers a good selection of up-to-date fashions, whether it’s leggings, bathing suits, hats and scarves, or winter coats. The prices are right – and the fill-a-bag sales are worth the wait in line. One parent raved about the selection of kids’ socks, which are durable and cheap, so no worries if one inevitably gets lost.
Favorite Kids’ Special Occasion Wear
10 Bassett St., 2nd floor, Milton
This is the sort of store that causes parents to drool, or utter “aww…,” or want to have another baby. The Nutshell is known for carrying beautifully made children’s clothes, from sweet little cotton dresses with old-fashioned smocking for girls to navy blue suit jackets and ties for boys and soft cotton layettes for newborns. They offer First Communion and flower girl dresses, along with sweet bows, barrettes and headbands, and more practical items like colorful rain boots, bathing suits and adorable thick cotton Red Sox sweaters. If you buy a piece of clothing here, no doubt it will be passed down from child to child. And if you don’t see what you are looking for, just ask. Special orders are their specialty.
Best Bargains or Consignment
Since the first store opened in Beverly back in 1956, Marshalls has been the go-to place for quality name-brand designer clothes and house wares at prices much cheaper than the major department stores. Our readers are especially pleased with the variety found in the large shoe section and the always present clearance racks that are goldmines for good deals. While known for clothes, Marshall’s is also a favorite spot to pick up a special gift – whether it’s a scented candle, picture frame or new toy for a birthday party.
Kid to Kid
42 Worcester St., Natick
Picture a store filled with hand-me-downs from that friend who takes the best care of her kids’ clothes, and that’s what you’ll find at Kid to Kid. Parents like this consignment shop’s wide selection of brand-name clothes for a fraction of the retail price. The store also carries toys, books, baby gear and maternity clothes, with an ever-changing selection of merchandise. Consider selling some of your stuff to earn cash or a merchandise credit at the store. If Kid to Kid doesn’t have what you are looking for, the owners will record your request in a book and call you when the item comes in.
219 Harvard St., Brookline
It’s increasingly harder these days to find a thriving independent book store, but, thankfully, Brookline Booksmith in Coolidge Corner continues to stay strong due to a committed customer base, passionate staff and an amazing selection of new and used books. This is the go-to place to lose an entire afternoon aimlessly browsing for books. It’s also the perfect place to run in for a unique gift or card. The jam-packed visiting author series is wildly popular – singer/new author Josh Ritter stopped by this month – and customers appreciate the knowledgeable staff recommendations of good reads. The upstairs kids’ section is bright and inviting, with small tables and chairs, and the used Book Cellar offers deals too good to pass up.
Favorite Toy Store
9 locations in Massachusetts
Surprise your toy-loving tots with something a little outside the box from Learning Express. A specialty toy company started by local mom Sharon DiMinico in 1987, Learning Express sells toys for children of all ages and specializes in playthings perfect for performing double duty – they’re educational and fun! From favorite brands like Thomas the Train and Friends and Melissa and Doug, to toys with creative flair like Rokenbok building sets and arts and crafts by Creativity for Kids, Learning Express is a parent’s best bet for pleasing playful kids. Stores are found in Acton, Andover, Bellingham, Beverly, Mansfield, Needham, Newton Center, Sudbury and Westborough.
After you’ve seen the cool window displays at Stellabella Toys, just try to resist sneaking in for a peek at all the wonderful specialty toys that line the shelves. Organized by age group, the selection makes adults feel like kids again, with a variety of hard-to-find toys that boys and girls of all ages will go gaga over. Children can explore toys in a designated play area, while parents browse educational, fun and creative toys that spark the imagination. Free story times and the Stellabella Thank You Program – a rewards program offering free cash for frequent customers – earn this toy store a big thumbs-up from gift-givers. Locations at 1360 Cambridge St., 617-491-6240, and 1967 Massachusetts Ave., 617-864-6240, in Cambridge; Wayside Commons, Burlington, 781-229-6290; and A-244 Legacy Place, Dedham, 781-329-6290.
Favorite Store for Maternity Clothes
Moms-to-be: Show off your baby bump in fashionable and reasonably priced clothes from Motherhood Maternity and Destination Maternity, our expecting readers’ top choices for casual and dressy styles. With dozens of locations throughout Eastern Massachusetts and beyond, the two stores – both owned by Destination Maternity Corp. – offer smart solutions for your entire pregnancy, from the Tummy Sleeve, a new mom-to-be must-have that allows you to continue to wear pre-pregnancy clothes, to the Secret Fit Belly, a super comfortable selection of pants, shorts and skirts that hug your expanding belly and provide support and smooth lines. Look stylish in all seasons, from tanks, tees, swimwear and blouses to sweaters, active and outerwear. And at Destination Maternity, shop the A Pea in the Pod Collection, which features couture styles by top designers.
Favorite Store for Baby Gear
4 Greater Boston locations
There’s no doubt about it: babies, though small and immobile, require a lot of gear. When parents-to-be are looking for a one-stop shop to pick up everything from adorable clothing and bath products to baby carriers, strollers and nursery furniture, look no further than Magic Beans. Founded by husband and wife duo Eli and Sheri Gurock, the store features a handpicked selection of quality items for baby and kids. In fact, Eli and Sheri describe themselves as “total geeks” when it comes to all the accessories new parents will need during those first couple of years, and they’ll work hard to help customers understand their best options. Moms and dads love this store because of the education they receive in “stroller-ology” and all other things baby; kids love this store because they can relax in the Playscape while their parents shop. In addition to baby gear, Magic Beans also carries a super selection of toys handpicked for their interactive qualities. Locations at 312 Harvard St., Brookline, 617-264-2326; 361 Huron Ave., Cambridge, 617-300-0171; 94 Derby St., Hingham, 781-749-2321; and 200 Linden St., Wellesley, 781-235-2120.
Favorite Store for Nursery Furniture
Baby Furniture Warehouse
3 affiliated locations
It’s no wonder Baby Furniture Warehouse receives accolades from our readers. With a friendly and knowledgeable staff, a diverse selection of stylish furniture and substantial discounts on nursery sets, this store has everything you need for your newborn’s special space. Offering furniture collections like Bonavita, Cocoon and Pali, Dutailier Gliders and all the other accessories needed for baby’s new room, Baby Furniture Warehouse sneaks in some extra savings with exclusive Internet coupons. And while known for its big baby must-haves like cribs, dressers and changing tables, this superstore also sells strollers, car seats, toys, bedding, kids and teen furniture and safety items. Locations at Market Basket Plaza, 1 General Way, Reading, 781-942-7978; 240 Wood Road, Braintree, 781-843-5353; and La Bella Baby Boutique, 24 Broadway St. (Route 1 South), Lynnfield, 781-595-5565.