Photos courtesy of Kerry Lee Zeff
StarryBird Kids is a charming one-stop shop for children’s clothing, shoes, toys, and more, plus natural skincare and maternity goods.
Rhinebeck is just one of those Hudson Valley towns that always draws visitors. The historic destination features creative restaurants, celebrity-owned chocolate shops, and an atmospheric indie movie theater. However, any day trip is incomplete without a little retail therapy. Though sleek clothing and other high-quality wares impress, it’s the sense of community that leaves a lasting memory.
StarryBird Kids, the maternity boutique/children’s clothing store, is emblematic of Rhinebeck’s positive charm. A trip to the cute brick and mortar—or its equally adorable online store—will yield anything from grinning rubber rain boots and pink puffer jackets to hand-knit dolls and wooden alarm clocks.
Owner Kerry Zeff first opened the place in 2010—albeit under a different name. The business was born as Waddle n Swaddle, then quickly rebranded to Sapling. Finally, she landed on the name StarryBird Kids, the perfect acknowledgement of all the children who “shine bright and take flight.” Before opening a business in Dutchess County, Zeff worked as a prenatal massage therapist in Boston. Her many years of experience inspired a dedication to supporting new parents.
“It offered educational classes, retail items and services like massage and other services for wellness and community building. It seemed like such an important missing piece of our society to have a place for parents to build community and get support. I decided there and then that that’s what I wanted to do one day in the future,” Zeff recalls.
The rest is history. StarryBird Kids has become a community cornerstone, offering more than just artisan children’s goods. In fact, service is at the very core of the business. Zeff organizes charity drives for women’s shelters and raises money for local mothers in need. Above all, she always offers guidance and support to all who enter her store. New parents face many challenges, and some advice, good company, and a bit of extra comfort can mean the world.
“In the shop, we offer comfortable clothing and bras for pregnancy and post-partum, because when your body is going through so many changes, I think it helps to wear clothing in which you feel good and comfortable. Also, the clothing we sell fits both during and after pregnancy, so you don’t have to ditch an entire wardrobe after you give birth. All of our items for mothers are not geared towards fashion,” Zeff explains. For example, StarryBird Kids features items such as “belly splints” that help with discomfort both during and after pregnancy.
All-natural soaps, face cleansers, and supplements to alleviate morning sickness round out just a few of the many adult-focused items. Zeff meticulously curates her shop’s collection. She searches for goods that are useful and safe for the entire family. Plus, most of the clothing and accessories sold at StarryBird Kids are organic. In addition, she sources toys and play-oriented items made from wood or eco-friendly materials like silicone. One of her favorite makers to work with crafts objects from a soft eco-foam, resulting in responsible and unique toys. For clothes, Zeff sticks with cotton, bamboo, and wool-based items.
In fact, most of StarryBird’s suppliers are other likeminded small businesses.
“I can have a more direct relationship with them and I know and trust their ethical production choices. One favorite are our food grade silicone bowls and plates that suction to the table along with tiny utensils and cups for early self-feeding. Items like these are not only child-safe, but are also innovative problem-solvers,” Zeff says.
Additionally, StarryBird Kids seeks to nourish developing minds. Zeff enjoys selecting books under varying educational lenses. Through its Little People Big Dreams collection, StarryBird connects young readers with inspiring women. Marie Curie, Harriet Tubman, and Ella Fitzgerald are just a few of the notable figures highlighted. Another series uses famous paintings as storybook pictures, teaching visually-oriented kids about legendary artists.
“Kids are little sponges and, if presented with material in a fun way, they can effortlessly learn so much more that one might expect,” she says.
Another key element of StarryBird Kids is baby registries. Expecting mothers can register online for gift wish lists, detailing their exact needs. They select footwear, strollers, snowpants, booties, and more, to be supplied by their friends and family. As Zeff continues to grow her business, she prioritizes a top-notch registry service and user-friendly website. During the pandemic, StarryBird Kids closed for several months. Zeff went into her shop alone every day to contend with online orders. She’d bring everything home, lay it out on her dining room table, package, and then ship individual orders.
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Of course, she did all this while making dinners and caring for her kids at home. Most importantly, StarryBird Kids is about supporting mothers, and even its founder needs that backup.
“I’d be remiss to talk about StarryBird without mentioning the incredible women who work with me in the business. These women are also the face of the business, offer the stellar customer service for which we are known, and help me keep StarryBIrd moving forward. One of them has been with me since the day I opened 11 years ago,” Zeff says.