Esby & Soph was born from Anja Christensen’s desire to find fashionable clothing and accessories for her son, Esben. The name was a combination of the names of her son and her niece. In 2013, Christensen opened an online store and it went so well that she opened a small retail shop at the corner of Davis and Mitton Streets. In 2014, Nichole Young came on board as a partner and the store moved to its current location at 155 Front Street North. Young had met Christensen at Lambton College; Christensen was an instructor, Young was a returning student with years of sales experience. The pair wanted to be part of the downtown revitalization.
In December 2017, Christensen made the difficult decision to leave the partnership. “I understood her decision completely. She will always be the person I bounce ideas off,” explains Young. “I’m still in the process of learning how to run the business solo but I have the support of an awesome team.” Young credits her three staff, who make it possible for her to be away from the store to do the purchasing. She works with sales representatives to ensure that Esby & Soph is the only retailer with their lines west of Toronto. “We carry several beautiful European lines you can’t find anywhere else.”
Esby & Soph carries baby and children’s clothing and accessories from carefully sourced designers and brands worldwide. Young seeks out unique pieces in limited quantities to allow kids to showcase their individuality. “We carry products for newborn to size 16. Outside of big box stores, there are limited options for children’s clothes in Sarnia. Kids don’t all want to dress the same, so I’m always walking a tightrope trying to balance stylish and trendy pieces at the right price point with what is age-appropriate.” Young’s favorite line is Silkberry Baby. “It is designed in Vancouver and all made from bamboo and organic cotton. I think all children’s clothing should be made of bamboo. It’s anti-static, anti-bacterial, UV protective, dry wicking and a renewable resource.”
Originally only carrying children’s clothing, when Christensen and Young relocated the store, they decided to try stocking a few baby items to see if they would sell. Three years later, half of their business comes from baby clothes and accessories. “Every day we see people who are celebrating the birth of a new baby or a birthday. The energy they bring into the store is so positive. Esby & Soph is a celebratory place.” Young prides herself on Esby & Soph’s customer service. “When you live in a city of 73,000 people, word of mouth goes a long way. We go out of our way to provide excellent customer service. We have loyal customers whose children and grandchildren we have watched grow up.” She also appreciates the relationships that she had built over the years through Esby & Soph. “I’m a people person and I love engaging with our customers, suppliers, sales reps, delivery people and downtown neighbours.”