“Our mission is to provide a fun and convenient way to buy and sell new and gently used kids’ stuff, focusing on quality, safety and value,” says Traci Bunn Powers, owner and director of human resources and training at Once Upon a Child. The store has toys and clothing for “premies” to youths.
“We are not a consignment store,” says Powers. “We pay for items we accept and the customer walks out with cash. However, it often happens that the cash is used to purchase other items,” she adds with a smile.
Once Upon a Child (OUaC) is a franchise operation. There are 400 stores nationwide. “However, we are independently owned and operated,” says Powers. She saw a store in North Carolina and decided it would be something to bring to Virginia. She opened the store in 2010, partnering with her husband Bruce and her twin sister Lori Janke and her husband Tobias (Toe-bee-us).
Lori Janke has a full-time position elsewhere but her husband Tobias is director of operations for the business. Powers’ husband Bruce is a professor for an online college but he frequently helps out in the store.
“I feel we are offering a service to the community,” says Powers. “By recycling, we are keeping items out of landfills. We help parents by providing affordable clothes for fast-growing children,” she adds.
OUaC buys items for all seasons, all day, every day including Sunday. No appointment is necessary. The items are reviewed and carefully rated for current style, safety and condition. “Sleepwear is our best-selling item,” says Powers. “Our prices are 70 to 90 percent below normal retail. We know what is likely to sell. Each day sees 800 to 1,000 new pieces. “We don’t have any supply chain issues! Business is good. There is always a need for children’s clothing,” Powers says. “Brand names become affordable. I remember one boy who was so thrilled to have Nike shoes.”
Any new toys, still in boxes, are set aside and saved for Christmas. In early December there is “Santa’s Workshop” and these toys are sold 70 to 90 percent off retail. “We also offer free wrapping for three hours,” says Powers. “It pleases me to see how happy people are to have a new toy to put under the tree. Last year we sold 500 items in 13 minutes.”
Powers has a child in the autism spectrum. “So I have a special interest in this area,” she says. Of the store’s 20 employees, three are in this category. “They are wonderful employees as long as their special talents are recognized. April is Autism Awareness Month,” she adds.
Powers and her twin sister grew up in Newport News. “We were known as the Bunn twins in high school,” she says. “We weren’t identical but we loved being twins. We were always best friends. We did dress alike for a while. However, our parents fostered individuality, allowing us to be different.” They both attended Campbell University in North Carolina. Now they both live in Williamsburg. Traci has three children and Lori has a son.
“Our families are close,” says Powers. “We get together every Friday night for dinner and games. For spring break we always go to Nags Head for a week. We also have annual passes to Busch Gardens. My sister and I text each other all day.”
Powers travels with the company, attending annual meetings. “I have been to a number of large cities in the U.S.,” she says. Her dream vacation would be going to Italy. “And I want to see Prince Edward Island, which was the setting for Anne of Green Gables, my favorite book. My sister is very well traveled. Her husband is a German National and they lived in Europe for a while.” When asked about a hobby, Powers replies, “Maintaining friendships.”
TO THE POINT:
Once Upon a Child
Address: 12233 Jefferson Ave., Ste. 7B, Newport News VA 23602
Phone: 757-968-KIDS (5437)
Contacts: Traci Bunn Powers, owner; Tobias and Lori Janke, owners