Store with Everything for Baby and Kids: An interview with the Schroll family of The Name Dropper and Storkland

“We treat employees like we would like to be treated if we were working for someone,” said Shea Schroll when asked how The Name Dropper and Storkland retain staff. Sid and Shea Schroll, pictured, founded Storkland in 1977.

Sid and Shea Schroll started “the store with everything for your baby” when they were both 24 years old.

At the time, there was no place in Montgomery to buy cribs or other products for infants. “There were no baby stores to speak of,” Shea said. “Parents had a choice of a couple cribs” at the meager department store options, she said.

Sid was an accountant who “always wanted his own business, an entrepreneur at heart.”  Shea was a schoolteacher.

The then-parents of an eight-month-old saw the need for their business, but “really didn’t know anything about what we were getting into,” Shea recalls.

Nonetheless, the Schrolls opened Storkland in August of 1977 in Montgomery’s Eastdale Mall, which had just been built.

By the early 80s though, the “juvenile products industry exploded,” Shea said. Between 1977 and 1985, all 50 states adopted laws requiring some sort of child restraint device in cars. “When I had my first child in 1977, you didn’t have to have a car seat to leave the hospital, but by the time I had my third child in 1982, you couldn’t leave the hospital without a car seat,” Shea said.

Storkland’s product line grew to meet customers’ needs and the growing industry. Besides cribs and bedding, the store sells car seats, strollers, changing pads and tables, recliners, diaper bags, blankets and more.

We were in the right place at the right time in the right industry,” Shea said 47 years later.

My family and I work hard to keep our business in step with the times, never letting go of the basics – excellent customer service, quality merchandise and a pleasant environment.

– SHEA

Expanding, combining and moving to meet the customer
The Schrolls have a knack for making key business decisions at the right time.

In 1984, they bought The Name Dropper, a time-honored children’s shoe and clothing brand in the Capital City with a memorable tagline.

Montgomery’s great cover-up for kids” began in 1941 as Bronson’s on Court Square and moved to Normandale Shopping Center, Alabama’s first shopping plaza, in the late 1950s. Mary and Charles Cahn, who bought the business in the mid-60s, had a much-advertised contest in 1969 to rename the store. Montgomerians literally named the business. “It was a well-established store for Montgomery and the surrounding area, so we didn’t have to build it up from scratch, like we did Storkland,” Shea said.

Besides the name, what hasn’t changed at The Name Dropper is “the quality of merchandise and the personal service.” Shea thanks Mrs. Cahn for giving her and Sid “good advice”: “Stick to your niche.

When the Schrolls bought The Name Dropper, it was in The Courtyard on the East Boulevard. For three years, they operated Storkland and The Name Dropper at separate locations.

In July of 1987, they combined the two businesses under one roof at Stratford Square, also on East Boulevard.

Sid and I could be in one location, and we didn’t have to have as many employees,” Shea said. The combined stores allow parents to outfit their children from birth through age 12 in one place. The Schrolls maintain the identities of both businesses, complete with separate signage and entrances.

THE ESSENTIALS

Founded
1941, The Name Dropper founded as Bronson’s;
renamed The Name Dropper in 1969.

1977, Sid and Shea Schroll founded Storkland.

1984, Schrolls buy The Name Dropper.

Number of Employees
15

Mentors
Our family, both immediate and extended, has been our support system. Mary Cahn, the former owner of The Name Dropper, gave us valuable advice, which we’ve adhered to since 1984.

Smart Moves
Buying The Name Dropper, a well-established store, to grow our business. Combining our two stores into one location. Buying land at The Shoppes at EastChase development and moving our business there.

Wisdom Shared

Follow your dreams, work hard and learn everything you can about what you want to do. Don’t expect instant success. Take advice from those who have knowledge about your business and thank God every day for your many blessings.

Sid, Shea, Brian and Gina Schroll own The Name Dropper, an 83-year-old traditional children’s clothing store, and Storkland, a baby furnishings and gift store, which Sid and Shea founded 47 years ago.

Family support;
Employees like family
From the beginning, family has been integral to the success of the Schrolls’ businesses.

We moved in with my parents. My dad had to co-sign the note,” Shea said about how the couple had to lean on family and friends in the early years.  “If we didn’t have our family to help us,” Storkland may never have gotten off the ground or succeeded, she added.

The Schrolls’ son, Brian, and his wife, Gina, joined the family business in 2001. “When I was getting out of college, I didn’t have an idea about what I wanted to do, but I liked the idea of owning a business,” Brian said. “There was talk about needing to move soon, so why not put all my time and energy into that.

In 2002, The Shoppes at EastChase opened, and the Schrolls decided it was time to move to what they call “the perfect retail place.” They bought land, built a 15,000-square-foot building and in July 2003 opened their current store at 7107 EastChase Parkway. South-central Alabama’s premier shopping area is the fifth location for The Name Dropper and the third location for Storkland.

Sid, who Shea calls “the mastermind” of the business, decided within the first 10 years that “to make it in the retail business, we need to own our own land.”

The Schrolls each bring their “own strengths” to the operation, said Shea, who “used to buy all the clothing and all the shoes. Gina helps me with all that now” and accompanies Shea on market trips.

Brian handles the website, marketing emails, the point-of-sale system and coordinates all the ordering and fulfillment for Storkland. Sid does the accounting and “knows everything that’s going on,” while leaving the customer forward duties to the rest of the family.

All four know that the business couldn’t succeed without dedicated employees who help keep the merchandise stocked, displayed and arranged; know what customers want; and assist with social media and the website. “The ones who have been here for so long are used to how we do things,” said Shea. “I’m thankful for employees who work like it’s their family business.

Generational customers
The Name Dropper has customers whose families have been shopping with the store for as long as four generations. “I’m fitting the children of (customers) that I fit in shoes when they were kids,” said Shea. “A lot of the grandmothers who shop here are my age, and there’s great grandmothers too. It’s wonderful they trust us to come back.

The Schrolls also keep the 12,000 customers on their mailing list (both electronic and snail mail) coming back with discounts-with-purchase coupons four or five times a year. The Name Dropper/Storkland only has two sales annually – summer (June) and winter (January). Having POS software that syncs to their website helps. Customers “put it all in their cart and when it goes on sale, they push submit,” said Shea.

The Schrolls prefer the personal touch, even writing “thank you notes to our customers” when time and staffing allow.

MEMBER SINCE 1993
“Montgomery’s great cover-up for kids” and “the store with everything for your baby” occupy a single 15,000-square-foot building at 7107 EastChase Parkway within The Shoppes at EastChase complex. Visit namedropperkids.com

This article is the cover story
of the July 2024 Alabama Retailer.

 

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