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A new customer walked through the door, and said, “I’ve heard good things.”
And so must have the other fathers and mothers with children in arms or in tow entering Cape Ann’s newest children’s consignment shop, The Urchin Exchange at The Commons shopping mall on Eastern Avenue near Pond Street, next door to the new location for The Common Crow Natural Food Store.
“It’s a new destination, an area we’re calling ‘Glockport,’ because it’s near the end of Gloucester and the beginning of Rockport,” said Melanie Waddell, The Urchin Exchange’s owner.
Opened in November, the store is the dream of this Rockport hometown girl. Her father is well known about town as owner of Waddell’s Mobile Locksmith, which is up for sale, she said.
“I was going to be the first female locksmith,” she said, of plans to be her father’s apprentice and take over the business.
But one day, just before Halloween, as she and her father were driving by the mall, she saw a sign for a shop for lease, and remembered, because she had a 5 year old son, there were no children’s consignment shops at that end of town.
“Dad, Dad, pull over,” she said. She located the leasing office, took a tour and returned the next day with a measuring tape, and found a woman waiting for her at the front door.
Ryan Flynn, married to the mall’s owner Sam Poole,
reminded Waddell that she had worked for Flynn when she was in high school at Flynn’s store, Diva, in Rockport.
“I had completely forgotten about that job,” Waddell said.
“But I was kind of at a point of ‘what should I do,'” she said. “My dream was to be a mother, but that wasn’t happening, so a friend suggested I be a nanny.”
She was hired by TV celebrity chef Marc Murphy of “Chopper” and his wife, Pamela. She watched their children for nine years, helping open restaurants and build houses. But in the middle of all that, she married and moved back to Rockport because she believed raising a child here was a healthier choice than New York City.
In applying for the lease at The Commons, she was able to use all those years of observing the couple to produce a business plan in two days flat.
“I signed the lease on Nov. 4 and opened Nov. 30,” she said. “Even though I cashed out on everything I owned, took a big risk, everywhere I turned, I felt this is where I should be in life.”
Serendipitous things happened. A friend saw the picture of the display case she had in the plan and brought one over from the Echo Boutique, which no longer had a use for it.
A bagless store, she offers The Urchin Exchange cloth bags for $1 or just bundles the merchandise up with string.
The string, she said, is a nod back to the old days of Rockport when her grandfather built schooners at Waddell’s Boat Builders in Dock Square near Bradley Wharf, in the building where James Russell now has his jewelry shop a time when bags were not used.
“They even kept lumber in Motif No. 1,” she said.
The name she chose for her store, “urchin,” refers not just to a sea creature and her family’s connection to the ocean, but also to a mischievous and raggedy clothed youngster. As she talked about her business, several better dressed urchins roamed about the store, discovering the play area with a miniature kitchen and toys.