Kiddytown, decades-old kids’ clothing shop, shutting down for good | CBC News


When Shashini Jayaratne learned four years ago she was pregnant with her first child, Kiddytown was the first store she browsed for baby stuff.

“Car seats, strollers, you name it. This was the store,” Jayaratne said. 

“It’s a personal attachment, and I’m very, very sad to hear that they’re closing.”

Early next year, after more than 70 years in business, the longtime Ottawa kids’ clothing and furniture store will shut down for good — in part because of the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Returning customer Shashini Jayaratne was among those browsing the store’s aisles on Friday. (Jean Delisle/Radio Canada)

Jayaratne said the store’s been around since before she was born — and that’s understating things.

Goldie Abramson and her brother Hy Hymes opened Kiddytown’s original Ottawa location on Rideau Street in 1945.

Over the next seven decades, Kiddytown peaked at six locations, according to its website. Today, its last remaining location in east Ottawa is owned and operated by Hymes’ daughters, Rhea Hymes-Hochstadter and Barbara Levinson.

They announced last week the store would close its doors for good in February 2022, when their lease expires. 

Tears, hugs, shock

Customers are taking the news hard, Hymes-Hochstadter said.

“Some people are crying, some people are calling, some people are hugging me, some people are shocked,” she said. “I have people who are on fourth-generation dressing.”

Levinson said she’s grown up working in the business. 

“Since I was eight years old,” she said. “Don’t report that to child labour!”

Rhea Hymes-Hochstadter, Kiddytown’s current co-owner and one of the two daughters of co-founder Hy Hymes, keeps this photo of the original store on Rideau Street in her wallet. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

Levinson said her father told his daughters that if they wanted something, they should work for it. 

“That’s what we did, whether it was answering the phone, taking cash, marking things. So [closing is] sad, but I’m ready to retire.”

Rhea Hymes-Hochstadter, right, and her sister Barbara Levinson own and operate Kiddytown today. Here, the pose with a photo of them as kids modelling the store’s clothes. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

The COVID-19 pandemic has made for a more challenging business environment, particularly when it came to retaining staff, they said.

The sisters had already closed their narrow downtown Bank Street location because it was difficult to socially distance there and “there was no one downtown,” Levinson said. 

Getting some inventory in has been tough too, they said. 

Hy Hymes, seen here in newspaper clipping kept by the family, taught them from an early age the value of earning their keep, Hymes-Hochstadter said. (Jean Delisle/Radio-Canada)

But Levinson said the time is right to wrap this chapter in her family’s history. 

“I feel like we’ve accomplished a lot,” she said. “It’s run its course for us and it’s good. It’s all good.” 



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