The Carousel Boutique, located in Williamsburg's Merchant Square, offers its customers beautiful children's clothing and a personal shopping experience like no other. Read on for Alex Wilson's perspective as she participates in the third generation of the Carousel Family Legacy.
My mom, Marty Wilson, and her mom, my grandmother, Margaret Axtell, started The Carousel in August 1991. The storefront is located in the heart of historic Williamsburg, where it is treasured by locals and a popular destination for tourists. We carry styles from traditional to trendy, yet still conservative. And we take pride in hand-selecting each style, size, and quantity of items for the store.
The mother-daughter duo didn’t always have a dream to open a children’s boutique. At the time, they were the owners of Baskin Robbins, right around the corner. So when a storefront became available in Merchants Square, Margaret was initially hoping to move Baskin Robbins to that space. Instead, Merchants Square voiced a need for children’s retail. So Marty and Margaret joined forces and jumped on the opportunity to start their second business.
The store was a challenge in the beginning because they didn’t have children’s retail experience. So Marty and Margaret hired a children’s retail buyer consultant to help through the first couple of years. But my brother Adam was 5, and I was 3. So my mom saw it as a fitting time for her to take on the world of children’s clothing!
We grew up in the store doing fashion shows, parades down Duke of Gloucester St., tagging along on buying trips, steaming clothes, ringing people up at the store, and being the walking advertisements for The Carousel in everyday life around town.
I began getting more involved in the business in college when I would meet Marty and Margaret in Atlanta on their buying trips. I started tagging along on more buying trips over the years, which turned into helping with marketing while also working full-time in Virginia Beach.
Currently, I'm a stay-at-home mom with three kids, and I work in the store once a week managing marketing, social media, and buying.
We never thought we would end up working together! But it's evolved into a really fun mother-daughter team, just like the mother-daughter duo I observed with my mom and Grandma throughout my childhood. We love working together, seeing each other often, and having another generation of kids grow up around The Carousel. It’s a multi-generational business, and we're blessed to be able to celebrate 30 years in business coming up this August.
Marty says that one of the most rewarding aspects of the job is experiencing how The Carousel has become a tradition in the Williamsburg community and with out-of-town folks. Many of her customers who were dressed in Carousel when they were children are now coming back and shopping for their own kids. She's able to witness a full circle moment!
We also have many tourists who visit us on their recurring trips to Williamsburg. Others have become good friends and customers over the years, and we help them shop through texting pictures and FaceTime. I have no doubt the store has been successful because of the personal relationships Marty and Margaret developed with their customers over the years. They know peoples’ names and the names of their children and grandchildren, as well as their ages and styles! This level of relationship makes people feel special.
Marty and Margaret had very distinct roles, which made them a good team. Margaret did all of the paperwork, payroll, invoicing, etc., and Marty was (and is) essential to selling and buying. Presently, Marty and Alex use their strengths to complement each other in a similar way. Alex adds a fresh eye to the buying process by knowing how to appeal to young moms and handles social media.
Make sure family always comes first. It’s important that each family member has different gifts, talents, and abilities that can come together to make a good team to run a business. You also have to make sure the trust is there.
The buying trips are our favorite. We go to Atlanta twice a year and buy for an entire season at a time. Marty has known some of the clothing reps since she started almost 30 years ago. Others have become fast friends over the years.
It’s fun to stay in a hotel, go out to dinner, and shop together. We’re a good team, work quickly and divide and conquer to get all of the shopping done. The days are long, but we're energized by hand-picking beautiful clothing for our customers.
Marty also enjoys working on the sales floor and helping customers. She gets a good idea of what customers are looking for, which helps her gauge buying needs.
The Carousel will be celebrating 30 years of business this year! We have a fun sale weekend planned in September where customers can receive 30% off one item and have other fun goodies and surprises. We're also asking you to send us pictures of your kids/grandkids wearing Carousel outfits over the years. You can submit pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Clay Rice is a world-renowned silhouette artist who has been coming to The Carousel every year since we’ve been in business. He cuts and frames classic silhouettes of your kids in under two minutes at our store. We're planning his next visit and will list dates and appointment details when we know more. Be sure to follow us on social media for updates!
Visit us on Christmas Eve! Our annual Christmas Eve sale has turned into a bustling event where we mark the entire store down to 50% off, and Williamsburg families come to shop for the day. It’s always fun to run into people you know! Shop quality clothing at discounted prices and enjoy mimosas and Christmas cookies.
You can follow The Carousel to see our latest products and learn store updates on Instagram @carousel_children or on Facebook @Carousel Children’s Boutique.