U&C Magazine spent a day at AntHill Shop N Play in Costa Mesa and had the opportunity to sit down with Elvira Kid, the creative genius behind this fabulous store. Originally from Switzerland, she sticks out like a sore thumb in Orange County, as she’s the perfect blend of classy and eccentric, fierce yet soft. Some days, you may find her dripping in Gucci from head-to-toe while other days, you will spot her in an eclectic mix of brands that she carries in the women’s section of this sprawling diamond in the rough. She’s a fierce Lioness wrapped in a small package, with a soft-spoken accent and a larger than life personality and a vision that’s so far beyond what most people could even begin to fathom. This store is not like the rest of them, so don’t be blind to this gem, especially if you have kids, who will surely be on their best behavior if they’re rewarded with a trip to AntHill Shop N Play.
(1) Please describe what you do, and why you are passionate about your work
Anthill shopNplay is more than a neighborhood concept store–it’s a lifestyle! It’s not just any ordinary store–it’s a place where all family members can shop, play, have fun and be together. The concept was created and designed to be associated with aspirational products for all family members.
We carry a wide variety of product categories and services under a single roof. You can find everything for any age group and any budget starting from kids clothing 0-16 years, toys, books, crafts, baby products, housewares, home décor, furniture, art, stationery, gifts, women’s fashion, men accessories and beauty products. Originally, the concept included a play area for kids to enjoy while the parents shopped but recently, I decided to change that. I am currently working on some new and interesting ideas because we do want to keep the shopNplay concept alive despite shutting down the play area.
I tossed around the idea of a concept store for several years after we moved from Switzerland. My family inspired me to start this store and now my customers inspire me every day with new ideas and what directions we take moving forward. Support and compliments that we receive from our community are very important to me. One of my biggest inspirations and challenges was and still is to be able to get more people back to a culture of shopping in a brick and mortar store and not in front of a screen at your home. I wanted my store to feel more like an experience, something that could not be recreated on the internet despite all the competitive pricing. Brick and Mortar stores can’t afford to just be a store nowadays. There has to be something more to offer to the customer. We stand by the products we sell and we choose only the best quality for our customers. Our mission is to find unique and special items coupled with outstanding customer service. Plus, we believe giving back to the community that embraced and welcomed us is most important as well!
These are core goals that I’m trying to achieve to differentiate us from the competition and hope it will make a successful impact on our Orange County community. I am very passionate about everything I do and believe in, which makes every moment of hard work worth it!
As a child, I remember my mother telling me “Any profession is good as long as you are best at it.” Those words reside in my head until this day and it has made me more determined in everything I do. I find if you love what you do, you will be best at it!
(2) When and why did you open Anthill Shop N Play?
I was exposed to the retail business from an early age. By age of 20, I was a professional buyer and merchandiser and traveled extensively around Europe attending many big trade shows. I did get a bachelors degree in PR and Marketing but I knew my true passion was interior design, so I decided to take a different direction.
I had the idea of creating a concept store for several years since moving from Switzerland to the United States. It was an idea and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it until I came across this perfect space and community that welcomed and embraced our store.
Being a working mom of 3 boys and someone who loves to shop, I thought it would be nice to have a place where you can go and spend some quality time together and combine activities.
Usually, if you go to a restaurant, kids get bored very fast and don’t want to stay around after they had their meal. If you go to a mall and want to shop, your husband and kids (especially boys) get extremely bored and want to run away. This concept store idea was a place where you can eat, play, shop and have amazing quality and variety for all family members!
(3) Were you always sure you wanted to be in the industry that you are in?
I knew the retail business inside out and also knew how unstable and difficult it could be so I was a little hesitant at first to dive into this industry.
From the young age of 15, I was sure that I wanted to be an interior designer but as life went on, I had a chance to work in different industries and it was only after having my 3 children that I decided to go back into retail.
Because the online retail business is growing so rapidly and killing physical stores, I stood in front of a big and scary challenge to overcome this and gain loyal customers that still believe in shopping at small stores. It’s even a challenge to compete with the big box retailers on their huge sales and return policies but we work very hard to find unique brands and very special products that allow us to compete against larger retailers while selling at a small margin, which makes our pricing more competitive. We hope our customers recognize the good value of the product for both quality and price. It is important for a small business as we do not sell the volume.
My goal is to have customers shopping for their favorite styles while they are in season and not wait for a sale. You will find that our initial prices as affordable as any items on sale from past seasons in other stores. At Anthill, you can have it right away when you want it. It does not take one a lot of effort to find examples of businesses that could not survive. We are proud and happy to be part of this community and truly thankful to all our customers for their support and believe in us.
(4) What motivates you to continue your work?
My customers motivate me! To see smiles on their faces or to hear them say that it’s their favorite store is what motivates me to push forward. One customer told me that she would have to fly all the way to New York to find one of the shoe brands we carry and even threw in that we had a better selection! Comments like that motivate me and of course, make me more than happy to keep those buying those beautiful shoes for our store.
My team motivates me! A lot of my employees have been with me from the start when we built this idea from scratch. They are my Ant family and we continue to multiply and grow together. 2017 was a challenging year for us with changes to our team, big store decisions and overall life lessons were learned. With those lessons learned, I am hoping 2018 will bring us the results we are aiming for.
I would say my biggest motivation in everything I do are my children. Starting this business, I knew I wouldn’t be spending as much time with them as I used to. I give 100% of everything I do, so I knew there wasn’t going to be much time left for them. There is no recipe to have it all, at least not for me. I am not a superwoman and I am not a super mom but I try to be the best example for them. There are days I wake up thinking I am a bad mother because I stay some days until midnight working and never have time to drive them to school but at the end of the day everything I do is for their future. I am also lucky to have the support of my loving husband and family so I am able to chase after my dreams.
(5) How do you find the brand that you carry?
I believe quality and price have to match. My goal is to find unique, one-of-a-kind, quality products for the best prices I can offer.
Traveling and attending so many trade shows is very hard work but I love every second of it because I am able to personally select every item for all stores.
My trick is constant research, staying updated and listening to your customers. Staying ahead of your competition and finding brands that no other stores around carry, can sometimes be challenging. I have found brands that have it all and that my customers love but after placing an order, I find out that Nordstrom not only carries it but has it on sale. There’s no way we could compete with those giant chains, so for me, research is very important.
(6) Do you have any advice for those looking for a similar career path?
Do what you love! BE different, BE special and BE unique. Don’t be afraid to stand out from others because people are looking for variety and something they can’t find anywhere else.
(7) What’s in store for the future?
I constantly come up with more ideas and projects. Next and probably closest change will be our new PlayZone, which is already in the process of getting a makeover.
Upstairs Anthill Fashion and Art Market will have a small make ver and will reopen with a beautiful selection of women fashion and a new corner we named Kud Vintage. This corner will be filled with vintage designer finds as well as affordable but still very unique vintage pieces. This new makeover will give you a feeling of being in an art gallery or Marche de Puce in Paris.
My other project that is up and running and very close to my heart is Winehill Market, which is only a few stores down. I’m still very passionate about everything home and design so the store is designed with unique pieces for the home that make great gifts. It’s a mix of an old style General Store in a small town with a Gift Boutique and Flea Market combined. You can find many small items, beauty products, kitchenware, home décor, socks, jewelry and even light fixtures! Most importantly, we do have all the accessories for wine but no wine as of yet but are working on a very beautiful selection of curated local wines. We also create beautiful gift baskets that can be wrapped and shipped at your convenience! You can check out our website www.winehillmarket.com for more information.