Ladels Children’s Book Boutique
By Eric Campbell
The Michigan Citizen
The Corktown district is generally known for its historic architecture and contributions to the downtown restaurant scene. But nestled in a cottage, that is an almost visually perfect setting, is a new boutique dedicated to children’s books.
Lauren and Debra Thomas, daughter and mother, have transformed a former pub into a space that could, itself, easily be found in a children’s adventure or fantasy novel.
Ladels Children’s Book Boutique is the culmination of Lauren’s 13 years in the retail business. After graduating in the first class at the Detroit School of the Arts in 1996 she went to Columbia University in Chicago to study fiction writing and film. She returned to Detroit to finish up at Wayne State.
Her experience working at the Truth Bookstore in Northland Mall and Borders Books cultivated her love of children’s books in particular.
She always loved children’s books, Lauren admits. She would always give them as gifts, even to adults.
Lauren’s mom and business partner recently retired from a long career in the auto industry. They decided to take the opportunity to do something special. It was Debra who saw past the dark, tavernish door of the pub. That vision enabled Lauren to take her experience with retail showrooms and create an interior design she hopes will spark the imagination of young minds.
The picket fence archway and well-manicured flower garden outside Ladels is the first indication that the Thomas are aiming for enchantment.
“I was really trying for something more organic, natural…that goes along with the nature of childhood,” says Lauren. “I definitely wanted a place where kids could feel like kids. “
The replacement of bar mirrors with bright yellow walls brings an uplifting sense to visitors. There are tiles below and hanging sculptures above that request your attention in every corner. It’s like being in a life-size dollhouse.
Shelves filled with multicultural titles and themes are illuminated by expansive plate glass windows. It was important to Lauren to offer a wide variety of hard-to-find tales that reflect views from around the world and the neighborhood. In addition to the African content there’s a generous selection of Spanish material reflecting the demographic of the neighborhoods just west of Corktown. Ladels also features spiritual books.
hey were just so thoughtful, a lot of these books, says Lauren. hey take children seriously and the idea of children being spiritual.
Illustrations are also an important consideration for a children book buyer and Lauren is quick to point out a Korean folktale that employs illustrations in the style of traditional Korean paintings.
It’s a simple story about a girl and her cat, but it takes in the whole culture through the illustrations, says Lauren.
Ladels also serves as a specialty toy store, featuring merchandise that reflects a time when you didn need an eight- pack of batteries to be entertained. Oversized stuffed animals, handpuppets and wooden toys by Melissa and Doug are abundant.
Every place sells toys, Lauren says. but they’re not necessarily those toys that, when you were young you kept forever, or that you played with forever.
For those parents looking for new activities for the kids, the boutique offers daily storytelling in the adjacent courtyard with emphasis, again, on multicultural themes.
“We want to have different events each month with different kinds of storytellers, celebrities and things like that,” Debra said. Debra is also looking to incorporate the talents of local celebrities such as Charles Pugh and Chris Webber to read to children.
We can lead up to that and say when Chris Webber was ten, this was his favorite book and highlight that book when the kids come in.
Ladels Children’s Book Boutique is located at 1413 Brooklyn, two blocks south of Michigan Ave. in Corktown. Hours are Tues-Sat. 10 am-7 pm, Sun. Noon-5 pm. Call for scheduled readings and events at 313-963-8550