Smocking and monogramming are two words that Southern mommas know well, especially when it comes to dressing their children. While we know there is always an exception to any rule, many Southern women enjoy seeing their kids in classic garments that never go out of style. There’s something charming about boys’ knee socks and needlepoint belts, and girls’ smocked bubbles and patent leather Mary Janes. We often see kids dressed in these items for special occasions, but what about the mom who wants a slice of sophistication day to day, too? That’s where Abby Ballinger of King & Bear Children’s Boutique comes in. This Buckhead boutique is a sanctuary for children’s style, where tradition and quality reign.
Like many boy moms will tell you, finding sweet, high-caliber boys clothing can be tough, and as a mom of two boys, Abby found herself in a similar predicament. “I always thought I’d open a women’s boutique, but in having children, what really inspired the shop was having boys and there not being good clothes out there for them. My oldest outgrew his clothes really quickly, and I wanted to keep him young and sweet for as long as possible; I didn’t want him wearing all of these big kid styles yet, so I thought Well, I’ll do something about this. This store came into fruition when I was pregnant with my second boy. I basically had him and signed the contract on the lease within weeks of each other.”
King & Bear, aptly named after Abby’s sons Kingston and Barron, recently celebrated its six-month birthday. Despite being a young establishment, it’s already finding its home among the other stores in Powers Ferry Square. The shop has well-known neighbors like Erika Reade and B.D. Jeffries keeping it company, with restaurants like BarTaco just a few doors down. Essentially, securing the location beside two other children’s stores was serendipitous. “When we found this location with Sprong and Kazoo next to us, it was perfect,” Abby says. Not only is she in good retail company, but the community where she’s settled her store tends to lean preppy and traditional as well.
Specializing in classic, timeless Southern looks, Abby makes it a point to carry regional brands that fit her style and the style of her customers. She keeps an eye out for the details and notices how garments are made. “I look at how the buttons are done. I carry things that are organic and things that are hand-crocheted, hand-knit and hand-embroidered,” she explains. Brands like Proper Peony and Beaufort Bonnet Company, with their slightly vintage look, are cherished and sought-after. In addition to showcasing coveted brands, King & Bear carries clothing up to a size 12, a rare find for traditional style. “I think we are trying to keep our children sweet and sweet-looking [for] longer; they have the rest of their lives to wear the other things.”
Abby has made an effort to consider not just the items in the store, but the shopping experience at King & Bear as well. Her shop features stunning mint green built-ins filled with clothes and accessories, and she smartly designed her layout by style instead of by size. This set-up makes it simple for busy moms to select clothes of similar trends. “When you shop by style, you can easily see that this girl item partners with this boy item, so brother and sister can match,” Abby says. There is no detail left unconsidered. The store boasts a quaint play area, which Abby hopes to expand soon, along with two small settees and lovely ambient lighting that complements the sun-filled space. Essentially, she’s creating a welcoming shopping environment that she says is “not just mom-approved, but child-approved, too.”
And when the zipper is zipped or the bow tied, that’s what counts. “I love seeing children feel good in what they’re wearing. Not all children will come in the store and try on clothes, but the ones who do will come in, try something on, and you’ll notice a big smile on their face. You know they feel good and confident in what they’re wearing. I think that’s my favorite aspect — knowing that kids are happy.”
King & Bear is located at Powers Ferry Square, 3720 Roswell Road, Atlanta, GA 30342. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; closed on Sundays. Learn more at kingandbearboutique.com.
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