Farewell Rockridge Kids

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The end of December saw the closure of one of the local businesses I've most treasured over the years, Rockridge Kids. The store and the wonderful owner, Nishan Shepherd, will be greatly missed.

I remember being at Rockridge Kids for the grand opening in 1993 with my then 3-year-old daughter, supporting Nishan and the importance of locally owned retail stores on College Avenue. Nishan was the manager of the College Avenue branch of Such A Business for about 10 years before that business closed, and he opened Rockridge Kids shortly after.

Any parent who ever shopped there learned quickly that Nishan really knew the business, valued safety and creative play above all, and made his store a welcoming place for families with children. I and many other young parents could walk there with our children, who played with the Brio train set or read books in the corner while we shopped. We knew there would be the perfect present for a birthday or baby shower, and that the very knowledgeable staff could help select the right stroller, car seat or baby carrier, giving the kind of service that few stores offer, and that is not available online.

Rockridge Kids to me exemplified the community spirit of the neighborhood. They supported the drive for Frog Park and the Rockridge Library, and helped the many local schools and nonprofits with significant cash donations as well as in-kind support for events and auctions.

When I started the Rockridge Halloween Parade 20 years ago, Nishan opened the store early on a Sunday to blow up dozens of black and orange helium balloons to mark the participating stores, and gave out stickers and small items to all the children. He continued to give generously to neighborhood causes over the years. His store was one of the things that people liked so much about Rockridge.

What happens to a community when these small stores close? We all say we love the vibrancy of College Avenue and of the community. And those stores that are owned by an individual person who had the dream of serving customers with interesting products and good services, also make decisions locally, give locally, and hire local people. So when these owner-operated stores close, the loss is much more than simply a store - it's a loss of part of the fabric of the community, part of what makes College Avenue a special place, rather than a series of chain stores and strip malls.

That connection to the community is something no online sales entity can ever replace. Online sources may offer great deals, but they won't donate merchandise or gift certificates to your child's school auction or the community

Halloween parade, and they won't be available to help you figure out how exactly to fit the car seat to your car and your child. Those are things that only come from businesses that are locally owned and a part of the community.

As the last weeks of the store neared, Nishan said to me, "I've accomplished everything I wanted to do with this business... it's time for the third act of my life." I wish Nishan the best in his third act, and am grateful for everything he has done and given to this community over the years.