By Léo Azambuja

Small Fry owner Addy Gilliam and one of her three daughters, Liliana.

After years of running a pop-up children’s store, Addy Gilliam said finding a permanent location for her business had always been one of her dreams. But for many parents seeking peace of mind while shopping for their children, Small Fry Kauai is also a dream-come-true.

“A lot of fun happens here,” said Gilliam, a young mother of three girls, ages 3, 6 and 9. “When parents shop, the kids have a safe place to hang out, and the parents can shop comfortably.”

Small Fry Kauai, conveniently located next to Kukui Grove Center’s Keiki Korner, offers a wide variety of things for children. Gilliam herself designs the kids’ T-shirts, with witty locally inspired quotes — a hit among locals and visitors. She also designs the swaddle blankets. Then there are tons of toys, teethers, home accessories, playsets, games, baby gear, children’s books, art supplies, and the list goes on. It’s serious cuteness overload.

While parents shop, their children get busy playing in the playhouse, writing on the chalkboard or drawing and coloring at the art table. But beware; this can easily backfire on the parents when it’s time to leave.

“It’s so funny, because the kids come, they sit down there, they play with the little kitchen set and they don’t want to leave,” said Gilliam, pointing to the playhouse. “The mom is checking out, ‘OK let’s go,’ and the kids just want to stay and hang out. That’s mission accomplished for us.”

The store’s age range is from newborns to 6-year-olds, she said. They do carry some items for older children, but the store’s core market is for children up to 6 years old.

Gilliam and her husband also have a video production company for 10 years. The video business, she said, was built around her husband’s talent. So for all this time, she has been supporting his talent. Opening Small Fry Kauai was an outlet for her to exercise her “creative muscle a little bit more,” Gilliam said, and having children stirred her in the direction of designing T-shirts for children.

“That’s how it all started,” she said.

In the beginning, Small Fry Kauai was a pop-up store selling merchandise in different markets around the island. Then in 2018, Gilliam secured a pop-up location at Kukui Grove Center, where she would open on holidays and special events. As of last March, Small Fry Kauai opened in a permanent location at the mall, allowing Gilliam to evolve her business into a full-on children’s boutique.

“It’s exciting to see how that growth has happened over time. This was the goal we wanted to happen, a full-on store opened regularly,” she said. “It was a dream of mine to always do that, but everything sort of just evolved naturally.”

The process allowed for Gilliam to respond to what her clients liked and to better understand the demand, she said.

There are other perks that came with having a permanent location. She said working at home was fun and fulfilling, but also quite challenging. Having a permanent location allowed her to be more creative, to have something of her own that she can be proud of and relate to others.

Gilliam said she looks forward to come to the shop, and she made it very kid-friendly so she can take her children to work if she has to.

“It’s something that really works for me,” she said.

Another perk of having a set location is developing relationships with other parents.

“Through this business, I’ve been able to connect with other moms. You build a network,” she said. “You just meet people, and you just have this common ground that’s so inspiring and fun. It’s really neat.”

Small Fry was a nickname that Gilliam’s sister gave to her oldest daughter. Gilliam said she thought it was cute and fun to name her store after her child.

Small Fry Kauai is at Kukui Grove Center in Lihu‘e, next to the mall’s Keiki Korner. They are open Monday-Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Visit www.smallfrykauai.com or call (808) 206-1203 for more information. Also, check their Instagram at @smallfrykauai.