For Reading natives Amy Collins and Karen Martignetti, finding an outfit for a special occasion in a child’s life is an integral part of the event itself, and the vast array of christening, First Holy Communion, flower girl, ring bearer, and holiday outfits at Goodhearts Children’s Shop offers children and families a shopping experience they won’t find buying online or at a chain store. “People come to us for the happy occasions in their lives, like weddings, First Holy Communions, and holiday photos,” says Collins. “We become part of the occasion itself. Choosing an outfit is an exciting event for the whole family, and we’re fortunate to be a part of the traditions that people treasure.”
Martignetti and Collins took over Goodhearts in mid-2014—the shop had been a Reading staple with its previous owner, Deborah Rio, since 1999. The duo brought a strong retail and corporate background—both graduated from Reading Memorial High School and earned degrees in apparel marketing from UMass Amherst—and added their own twists to the store, cultivating a fun, welcoming vibe for parents and their children. “We renovated to make the colors lighter and more fun, and the layout easier for parents to maneuver with a stroller,” says Martignetti. The renovation was a hit among Reading residents and longtime customers. “People really noticed the little changes we made,” she adds.
Throughout the changes, Martignetti and Collins maintained the Goodhearts tradition of high-quality special-occasion wear for children—something that’s become increasingly hard to find in an era of big-box stores and online shopping. “It’s a shame that not too many stores carry items like these anymore,” says Collins. “Our customers come from all around the Boston area, because they struggle to find top-quality special-occasion clothing from stores that give them the same experience we do.”
Personal attention is key to the experience that Martignetti and Collins provide. They recommend that customers make appointments in advance, especially during First Holy Communion season in January. “A lot of little girls come in with an entourage to find a First Holy Communion or flower girl dress. They may have their mothers, sisters, and aunts, and they make it a kind of ‘girls’ day,’” says Collins. “Each group will receive individualized attention to choose not just the dress but also the shoes, tights, headbands, and even jewelry. Creating a [whole] outfit is an experience you can’t replicate online.”
Collins and Martignetti frequently help customers who have been disappointed by sub-par Internet-based retailers. “There’s so much workmanship that goes into everything we choose for our store,” Collins explains. “You can’t see these details online, and the quality is often missing when the garment arrives.” In person, customers can see the craftsmanship of each garment from brands like Sarah Louise, Christie Helene, and Isabel Garretón—a personal favorite of Martignetti and Collins. These dresses often feature intricate beadwork, ruching, flowers, and an array of different colored interchangeable sashes. For boys, Goodhearts stocks a selection of two- and three-piece suits and ties that are ideal as ring bearer outfits, and a larger collection of white suits, gloves, and accessories during First Holy Communion season.
In addition to special-occasion selections, the store carries everyday clothing, books, and toys for infants, toddlers, and girls sizes 4 to 6x. “Another thing we’re known for is our selection of new baby gifts,” explains Collins. “We carry high-quality infant clothing from brands like Kissy Kissy and Mayoral, layette items, silk memory boxes, personalized music boxes, and really special knit and crochet sets.” Martignetti adds, “We’re confident that we can fill a gift need for any new baby. Customers often call ahead and ask us to assemble a gift or a few different choices, because they know we’ll have something classic and timeless.” Collins and Martignetti have also cultivated an in-demand collection of infant and toddler sportswear; a tiny red-and-blue Boston Red Sox sweater is one of their most sought-after items.
The business partners round out their collection with top-notch toddler brands like Biscotti, Isobella and Chloe, Giggle Moon, and Persnickety. The pair frequently visit trade shows around the country to learn about up-and-coming brands, but their strongest relationships are with tried-and-true vendors. “The best vendors care as much about their products as we do,” says Collins. “They’ll often share the process of creating the clothing with us, and they allow us to fill special requests for our customers, who often need items in different sizes or colors than we have in the store. We’ve developed a really good group of vendors and brands that we trust.”
Family-oriented Reading has offered Martignetti and Collins the opportunity to join community events like Shop the Block and Small Business Saturday. The duo has also paired with local businesses like Andover’s Taste Buds Kitchen to offer a cooking class for toddlers, and Massachusetts–based Saltmarsh Pottery to offer customers an opportunity to create handprint keepsakes with their children. “Businesses in this area work as a cohesive unit,” says Martignetti. “We look out for each other and share our knowledge to improve the shopping experience for customers.”