April Lawrence was four months pregnant with her second child, and being the frugal mommy she is, tried to find a resale store for maternity clothes. There were options online, but because one’s shape can vary while carrying a child, Lawrence wanted to try on clothes before purchasing, to alleviate the pains of returning them.
“The other option is second-hand stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army but they lump the maternity clothes in with all the other women’s clothing, so you have to go digging and when you do find something, you don’t know if it will fit right,” she said.
So within weeks after giving birth and keeping her full-time job, she opened her own maternity resale shop called Mama-San Boutique. She chose Mama-San because her husband Bruce affectionately calls her that from time to time.
“We have done all the work for you here,” she said, referring to neatly organizing the sizes and types of merchandise in a welcoming open space with contemporary hardwood flooring. The fitting rooms are clean and inviting as well.
The store offers all things mommy including dresses, pants, shorts, skirts, t-shirts, nightgowns, nursing wear and even business wear for moms who work. She also sells maternity aids, accessories and teas as wells as books and tapes on pregnancy.
Like a child grows, Lawrence wants to expand the offerings at the business. In the evenings, she wants to have classes and social events. In the planning stages is a family comedy night held in conjunction with Father’s Day. While it will be adult-themed, it will be about being a parent and the comedians are parents themselves.
“We really want to make the store a destination type of a place,” she said.
The store is also an extension of the relationship Lawrence had with her mother, Diane Struebing, who passed away when Lawrence was 12. Her mother served as president of the local school board when Lawrence was in grade school and her mother led a campaign to start a hot lunch program at her school.
Struebing also believed in giving back to the community and did so through her membership in the American Legion Auxiliary. She would host regular dinner parties for the community, all while raising three children–often alone as her husband was regularly out of town during his long-haul drives.
Lawrence wants to carry on that community spirit and philosophy her mother instilled in her, she said.
Throughout high school, Lawrence participated in most of the sports and clubs offered at her school. So taking on opening a business while living a very full life seemed like a natural next step. Especially when her family history reminded her that life is short and worth the living. But she adds, it’s still a little scary.
“My mom lived a full life, but had more plans for herself that didn’t come to fruition,” Lawrence said. “I didn’t want to let fear hold me back from my plans.”
Lawrence also learned from her mother the importance of helping others and so she donates a portion of all sales from her boutique to the San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission.
Now that she has children of her own, Lawrence said she wanted to instill that same sense of community into her own kids. Her business also gives pregnant women a place to come and do something for themselves. Too often, women have a tendency to always want to do for other people.
“I want to make sure that women are being taken care of, not in a selfish way but a way they can feel like ‘I’m not blowing my family’s budget on a dress I’m going to wear for four months,’ ” she said.
“I want to give women a place where they can come, feel good about themselves get some nice clothes and at the same time a portion of the profits go to the San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission. I love what they do in that they help families in need get back on their feet.”