By Anne Christnovich
A child’s growth spurt can sometimes shrink parents’ wallets.
But thrifty local parents know they can count on Ali Quillen to soften that blow.
Customers browsing outside Ali’s Attic paused outside the door and gasped when they saw a high chair priced at $50.
“It looks like it’s brand new,” an expecting mother said. Her fellow shopper checked the price tag several times as she agreed.
Quillen smiled as she watched the conversation from behind the counter and said it was a perfect example of what her store is about.
“Who wants to go to Walmart and pay $20 bucks for an outfit for them to play in the mud in?”
The store sells clothes for newborns to pre-teens, as well as school uniforms, games, toys and changing tables, strollers and other baby equipment. Quillen has stacks of onesies for infants at 50 cents each, and an entire outfit for a toddler can be bought for less than $8. There also is a wide variety of brands, Quillen said, from Walmart to Strasburg.
The store opened 14 years ago when she was pregnant with her daughter and running a salon. The inspiration to open Ali’s Attic literally appeared in her garage.
“Everyone I knew kept bringing me stuff,” she said, referring to bags of hand-me-down baby clothes. “Eventually I decided I had enough to open a store.”
Quillen started with a 300-square-foot space near Gilligan’s Seafood restaurant. Then store’s size quadrupled to 16,000-square-feet when it moved to the building on the corner of Pigeon Point Road and Boundary Street four years ago.
Ali’s Attic will be in an even bigger space starting Sunday. Her new location is on 1304 Boundary Street and has about 18,000-square-feet, Quillen said.
Quillen has already been renting the new building for about seven months. She’s spent the time remodeling and painting the space — formerly occupied by The Studio — to give it the quaint feeling of a seaside cottage, she said.
In addition to more space, Quillen is changing a few other things about the store. While about 90 percent of her incoming items are currently sold through consignment, she plans to instead just buy items from customers outright. The change, she said, is being made to put cash in the hands of customers more quickly and to eliminate the complicated consignment process from her business. Parents can sell outgrown clothes and immediately have some money to get the next size up.
“I think truthfully it will just be better for both,” she said.
The store will also eventually be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays. Regular hours are currently 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Customers, Quillen said, have been pushing her to open on Sundays because it’s the best time for one parent to get away while the other watches the kids.
Ali’s Attic is the third business Quillen has had. She owned a photo shop on Hilton Head until 1992 and a salon in Beaufort until 2000.
But Ali’s Attic, Quillen said, has been the business most dear to her heart.
“This has been the love of my life,” she said. “I’ve poured my heart and soul into this place.”
The reason, she said, is being able to help mothers who don’t have much money and seeing the children of her customers grow up. Customers, Quillen said, come from as far away as Hilton Head Island, Edisto or Hampton County.
“It’s a great feeling to supply kids with clothes … In this business we see the babies as they grow up and some come in at 13, 14, 15 years old,” Quillen said. “It’s been very heartwarming to feel like you’ve given back.