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New children’s store puts emphasis on organic

Downtown shop sells clothes, toys, furniture
By: Gloria Young, Journal Staff Writer
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Having a baby brings a lot of changes into new parents' lives. In the case of Raj Hundal and her husband, Glenn Simpson, it also sparked interest in opening their own business. We had a baby last April, Hundal said this week. We found it was really difficult to get him toys that didn't have lead and weren't toxic. We wanted to get him clothing that was organic. We found we were ordering everything online. After a year in the planning, Me Gusta Baby opened Saturday in Downtown Auburn, offering selections for children from infancy through 6 years old. The inventory includes organic baby clothes, eco-friendly diaper bags, non-toxic bottles, organic bedding and bath products, non-toxic toys, high chairs, bassinets and cribs; and organic baby carriers. A lot of (the items) are things I use with my own son, Hundal said. I've done months and months of research trying to find out what the best products are. On top of being eco-friendly, we're trying to make sure everything is fair trade or at least manufactured as responsibly as possible Among the choices are soft toys from Under the Nile, wooden toys from Plan Toys, doll houses, train sets, play kitchens and lots of preschool items, she said. There are also shoes by Thoms Shoes. For every pair of shoes sold, the company donates a pair of shoes to kids in Africa and South America, she said. But the Auburn couple's ideas for the store go beyond merchandising. They're planning to have weekly playgroups, activity days, eco-parties and even a signature clothing line. There'll be a sign-up sheet in the store and the children will be grouped by age, Hundal said about the play days. For the clothing line, they're launching a contest in mid-April for students from kindergarten through high school to create graphic designs. Whichever designs we pick, we will set aside a portion of profits to go into a college fund for those students, she said. Initially the clothing line, to be sold nationally as well as locally, will include onesies, T-shirts and bibs. Activity days will offer crafts, dance or music, she said. The eco-parties will take the inventory directly into customers' homes. Being parents ourselves, we realize how busy lives can be, Hundal said. Sometimes you can't go shopping. So we'll bring our items to you. You can get together with friends and have a shopping party. We can customize the party to whatever the individual wants. The emphasis on being eco-friendly extends to the shopping bags. The store carries 100 percent recycled bags. But shoppers who bring in their own will get a 25-cent credit per bag. We want to encourage people to reuse their bags and bring in shopping bags, Hundal said. Longtime friend Christi Meng of Auburn is looking forward to the opening of the store. Meng became acquainted with the couple through her son's attendance at Hundal's mother's preschool in Auburn. They're phenomenal people in their dedication to children and they've been a great influence in our lives, especially my children, Meng said. In regard to their store, I think they have a lot to offer to the community and to families, not just the products they're selling. I think they're going to be a great addition to the community. Another thing Hundal and Simpson want to do is give back, so a portion of profits is being earmarked for contributions. A big part of why we wanted to open the store is to be part of the community, Hundal said. Education is very important to both of us. Through April 14, 2 percent of profits will go to the Boys & Girls Club of Auburn. Next month, Rock Creek will be the beneficiary. We have quite a bit of support from local business, but this is an unusual format for it to happen, Auburn Boys & Girls Club chief professional officer Randy Tooker said. The funds will go to support youth development for the kids, he said. It was a great offer for a business just getting started, Tooker said. It's really neat that they're looking to give back to the community this way. Hundal and Simpson grew up in Auburn, attending Rock Creek, E.V. Cain and Placer High schools. After graduation, Hundal left the foothills to attend college in Santa Cruz and later the twosome moved to Los Angeles to work in the film industry. I worked at a film production company in charge of reading scripts, working with producers and casting, Hundal said. Today she is an aspiring screenwriter. They decided to return to Auburn two years ago when Hundal's father, Amrick Hundal, a longtime teacher at Weimar Hills School, passed away. We also wanted to start a family and always knew we wanted to raise our family in Auburn, she said. The Journal's Gloria Young can be reached at gloriay@goldcountrymedia. com or comment at auburnjournal.com.