The Wonder Years
Parents of young children in suburban Chicago have a new shopping destination that delivers a fun and easy experience. “Our DNA is that we have a passion for parents,” says Shane Christensen, founder of Wonder. The 135,000-sq.-ft. store carries more than 100,000 SKUs for children up to age seven. “After about eight or nine, kids tell their parents where they want to shop,” he says. Nearly 30 “rooms” allow parents to see everything needed to create a nursery or home play area. Open displays allow shoppers to evaluate potential purchases, and there are even test-drive areas where parents can try out strollers. The store hosts weekly classes for cooking, dance, yoga and, in a unique partnership with the Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s Prentice Women’s Hospital, prenatal, birthing and breastfeeding classes. In a joint venture with Bean Sprouts Café, Wonder also has a 3,000-sq.-ft. dining area. “When I looked at toy stores as a new parent, I found [them] to be completely lacking in enthusiasm, creativity and energy,” Christensen says. “And if any industry should be completely about energy and life, it should be the children’s retail industry.” Retailers like Whole Foods and American Girl “proved to me how much culture and lifestyle matter to people,” he says. “People are willing to travel further and spend more on quality and service in a great environment. So there has to be something more than just the product.” Expansion plans include adding five to 10 stores over the next three years in major markets like Los Angeles, Dallas and New York City.