Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

Made by Mom Gift Guide: Raleigh children's boutique, play space owner finds bright spots during challenging year

Posted December 7, 2020 9:01 p.m. EST

Courtesy: Alara + Zane

— It's been a challenging few months for Sanaa Alyemeni, the mom of two who opened Alara + Zane, a children's boutique and play space in North Hills, earlier this year. But she's found workarounds to ensure that customers can shop from her thoughtful collection of children's clothing and toys and kids can play a bit in the 2,000-square-foot play area.

Alara + Zane is featured in this year's Go Ask Mom Made by Mom Gift Guide because of its broad selection of fantastic gifts for little ones and family activities with safety measures built in. Keep reading for more about what Alara + Zane has to offer. And stay tuned for more Made by Mom features this week.

Christmas outfits

Go Ask Mom: You opened during a tough time. How are things going?

Sanaa Alyemeni: That's a tough question :-) Opening a new business that revolves around gathering and community has certainly been difficult during this year. Truthfully, we see less people than we need for my business to thrive, but I continue to stay positive. 2020 has definitely pushed to think outside the box (and spend a lot on cleaning supplies haha), but that has also shaped the more personalized nature of Alara+Zane. Offering customizable private play sessions, and limited open play, has allowed us to really know our guests. We have had the opportunity to meet such great families and individuals over the past five to six months. So, all things considered, it's going well. I just hope for continued growth and for more families to know that we are here, and what all we have to offer.

GAM: How have customers responded so far?

SA: We've had such positive feedback so far which really makes me so happy. Retail guests seem to really appreciate the style and brands that we carry and our play space seems to be a hit with both littles (babies through 6/7) and their grownups. Children's eyes light up when they walk in the door and the excitement continues even when they come week after week. We always strive to offer a personalized experience each time someone comes in, and I think that has been received well.

Santa storytime at Alara + Zane

GAM: What's brought you the most happiness as a business owner during these challenging months?

SA: It has really been incredible to be able to offer families a little escape from the stress of COVID. We have all been stressed and overwhelmed by the challenges of this year, so it's heartwarming to see families come in and relax, smile, play, craft, and laugh together. I have loved learning a little about everyone who comes in, and watching children's personalities emerge as they become familiar with us. Comforting a parent who is feeling stressed, helping someone put together the perfect gift for their friend's first baby, offering a quiet spot for a new mom to breastfeed, and celebrating along with children on their birthday have all been special moments that have brought happiness during these challenging months. 

GAM: What kinds of fun Christmas and holiday items do you have that you're really excited about?

SA: Oooo, so many! We have some amazingly comfortable holiday pajamas for kids and parents. Yes, I said matching pajamas! Seriously though, they are so buttery soft and totally wearable after the holidays. We also have some fun gift items from fashion accessories like cool hats (dinosaur, camo, and macaroni prints to name a few) and the most adorable purses, to eco friendly toys that can serve as gifts or stocking stuffers.

GAM: What are your business goals for 2021?

SA: For 2021, my goals are to continue to create supporting families through unique and personalized experiences in both our retail and play spaces. I hope to raise more brand awareness and welcome more families in for music class, play sessions, birthday parties, and of course, shopping. We will be expanding our retail size up to an age 8/9 (currently offering 0-6 and some size 7) which will allow us to grow with some of our older A+Z kids. I am also looking forward to offering some occasional drop off sessions so that parents can enjoy some kid-free fun around North Hills. 2021 (pending a better COVID situation) will be full of fun events for kids, and informative events and classes for parents and caregivers.