Dec. 24, 2022

Very Ventura's kid's cove beacons children to an under-the-sea experience.

Angela Rosales

Angela Rosales loves overhearing the,”Wow!” reaction of surprise and joy when children enter the dedicated Kids Cove space inside her coastal store, Very Ventura Gift Shop & Gallery in Ventura, California. An undersea scene with blue waves that hang from the ceiling and vibrant green seaweed fronds brush up against slat wall displays, while a playful sign identifies the dedicated space for the young and young at heart.

“The kids get that they are ‘undersea’ and they let their imaginations run wild and really enjoy the space,” says Rosales, whose husband designed and built the cove’s features. The Kids Cove is a new addition to the shop, which opened nine years ago as a gift and art gallery to showcase “our special slice of the coast.”

Playful plush jellyfish hang from a children’s display on a slat wall.
Photos: Jessica Militello
“Ventura stays in your heart,” Rosales says. People who have visited or have lived in the community maintain a special connection to the seaside city, she notes. The Kids Cove evolved out of requests from visitors. “Many of our customers are grandparents visiting family here and they want to get something for the kids, or they are going to visit family elsewhere and they want to bring a gift that is not digital.”

Kids Cove began as a clothing display — and it grew from there. Kids products initially made up 5% of total sales, and today it’s closer to 15%. The department consumes about 10% of the 1,600-square-foot retail space. Rosales says, “It has expanded into some unique toys, plushies and classic gifts.”

Play and purpose

To carve room for kids products, Rosales moved around other displays and reduced the gallery portion of her shop. However, because of the ample wall space her store provides, she can still hang art on walls to sell. “I needed the retail space instead because it’s more turnover,” she explains.

A dedicated space was a priority for Rosales because it creates a store within a store feel and gives kid’s toys and apparel the attention they deserve. “If you are going to create the space, no matter the size, theme it out so it’s clearly identifiable that ‘this is kids stuff’ and you are not just mixing kids items with other merchandise,” she advises. “Create a space that is fun.”

“If you are going to create the space, no matter the size, theme it out so it’s clearly identifiable that ‘this is kid’s stuff’ and you are not just mixing kids items with other merchandise.” – Angela Rosales

A specially branded Kids Cove is more than a store department at Ventura Gifts. Rosales decided to start a separate DBA for Kids Cove. “That way, it is poised for growth should I want to branch out,” she says.

A Kids Cove decorated in an underwater theme complements children’s products.
And with Rosales’ overall interest in children’s causes, it’s a real possibility. She recently was awarded the Downtown Ventura Rotarian of the Year award for her work as director of Youth Services. “We aim to interact with youth and teach service above self,” she says, adding that the Rotary Club is also developing a literacy program to mentor youth to read to younger children.

She is collaborating with the Ventura Unified School District to create a vision-to-marketplace curriculum. “Middle and high school students can take a product through the phases of concept, design and sales,” describes Rosales, who also was recognized as Client of the Year for Women’s Economic Ventures in her hometown for her volunteer work. “So, there are a lot of initiatives our shop supports related to youth and the community.”

Finding favorites

Sourcing children’s products is simply fun for Rosales. “I love the water toys — I could play with them all day! And the toy section is fun for our employees, too.”

Themed displays organized by brand, product type and color offer something for every young guest.
Overall, when Rosales sources products, she buys with hometown customers in mind first. “I think of what I would want to wear and, ‘Would I want this decor in my house?’” she says. “To that end, we have earned a reputation of having high-quality products and a place where locals are proud to bring visitors because they trust our brand and know they can find really unique items.”

The toys she sources are often eco-friendly or have a give-back component. “The other thing we notice with toys is a good sales rep can be your best friend because toy trends change quickly,” says Rosales. “A favorite toy today is not necessarily the favorite toy tomorrow. As a retailer, we have to stay on top of it and make some key partnerships to stay on the forefront.”

For example, the Kids Cove includes squishy toys and Pop-its. “My rep recommended them and they are selling like hot cakes,” Rosales says.

And while purchasing for kids, Rosales keeps in mind two audiences: grandparents looking for retro toys like kaleidoscopes and water games, and kids who are shopping for “flashy toys — the hot items for now.”
Rosales focuses on coastal-themed kids’ toys and clothing and mixes in some trending items like NeeDoh toys that are described as the ultimate stress ball made of “gratifying goo.”

“With clothing we really focus on quality, such as a brand I’m carrying now called Earth Nymph,” she says of the Australian brand featuring hand-drawn graphics on T-shirts, apparel, accessories and plushies.

Offering toys gives the shop “a completely different feel” in a positive way for guests and sales. “It brings a fun sense of play — and it brings out the imagination in all of us!”