"We've been looking for a product like this for years," said Stan Fridstein, president and cofounder of the Right Start Catalogue, which carries an upscale collection of children's items.
The product: a bathing suit for babies that is designed with a detachable cloth diaper. Its purpose: to contain the organic bits, without weighing down the baby with extraordinary amounts of water.
"The problem is with Number 2, and it (holds in) Number 2," said Sitarz, 36, a very personable woman who seems to be in fifth gear at all times. Sitarz, who lives in Langhorne, and her business partner, Katherine Kish, founded Diaperwhere Inc. five years ago. The company is based in Cranbury, N.J.
A patent is pending for the bathing suit, Sitarz said.
She, it appears, has found a niche in the middle-to-upscale baby market that has been, excuse the pun, dry for years. Sales, according to Fridstein and the man who sews the suits, Bart DeGele, are going well.
DeGele, owner of Garment Makers on Allegheny Avenue in Philadelphia, said that each of the boy's and girl's suits are in their fifth reorder for this season - an average of 8,000 suits per reorder. This doesn't include reorders for the detachable diaper.
Fred Abelson, who owns Allen's baby shop in Princeton, said Sitarz's suits are the only baby swimsuits he sells. He said he ordered about 100 for this season.
"It dries quickly, it's beautiful. . . . It's just the greatest thing I've ever seen," he said.
But it's not the greatest money-maker. A small entrepreneur doing business in an upscale market is not going to get rich quickly, Sitarz said. Her market, she estimated, covers about 1 million children.
"We are looking for a strategic alliance," Sitarz said. In financial parlance, such a pairing could mean anything from financial backing to an outright sale of the company.
Diaperwhere is not on firm financial footing because the suit costs a lot to make, Sitarz said. The girls' suits retail for $34.95; the boys' for $26.95. One diaper is included with each suit. An extra pad costs $7.95. The markup, she said, is minimal.
DeGele said it takes twice as long to make Sitarz's suit as other swimsuits on the market.
The suits, made primarily from cotton and a touch of Lycra to add some stretch, are designed to last over two summer seasons - and 10 pounds of growth. Each suit has a series of snaps on each side to accommodate a baby's growth. Velcro was ruled out because it can chafe the baby, and, besides, Sitarz pointed out, the youngster can yank at it.
The girls' models have halter tops.
The legs of the suits are elasticized and single-stitched. The interior of the bottom is lined with an anti-microbial, antifungal, chlorine-resistant plastic, Sitarz said.
Fridstein said each product in his catalogue has been tested. Sitarz's suit was no different.
The detachable diaper is shaped like an hour-glass.
"It's idiot-proof," Sitarz said, explaining that the diaper has a ''father-friendly" handle on its reverse side so the bits can be shaken out.
Sitarz said she designed a prototype of the suit after watching a disposable diaper, which was on her then-2-year-old daughter, explode in the pool. Sitarz, an employee of Market Entry, a small marketing consulting firm in Cranbury, took the suit to her boss, Kish. For the first two years, the suit stayed in the research and development stage, Sitarz said.
"We didn't show it to anybody," she said.
Since the product has a patent pending, potential competitors cannot get their hands on the paperwork explaining how the suit was put together, Sitarz said.
In 1993, Diaperwhere started selling the suits to specialty shops and at trade shows. The company did not advertise; therefore, exposure was limited.
"We wanted to make few financial and marketing mistakes," Sitarz said. ''If you get (a product) out real fast, sometimes you miss a little thing that can kill you in the long run."
Steady growth has come each season. DeGele said that last year, his garment workers were finished making the suits by April. This year, the last order wasn't done until last week, he said.
Scott Stewart, spokesman for Procter & Gamble Co., which makes Luvs and Pampers disposable diapers, said his company doesn't see the need for Sitarz's swimsuit. If a parent puts rubber pants on a child, and watches over the baby in the pool, accidents - and diaper explosions - should not happen, he said.
"It is our position that no safety or sanitary reasons should prohibit" a disposable's use in a pool, he said.
Don't tell that to Charles Wagner, recreation program coordinator for the Philadelphia's Recreation Department. Wagner is in charge of the city's 81 swimming pools.
No disposables are allowed, or ever have been permitted, in any of the city's pools, he said.
"They screw up the filtration system," he said.
Jeanne DiPaola, executive director of the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce, sees an excellent reason for Sitarz's suit. People bury disposable diapers at the beach and elsewhere, she said.
Some 10,000 disposables were found buried last year during a beach cleanup conducted by the Center for Marine Conservation. The cleanup was conducted in 35 states.
"From an environmental standpoint, (the suit) would be an ideal solution," DiPaola said, "I would think that some places . . . would want to make something like this mandatory."
Which would be just fine for Sitarz, who is looking to expand her idea into the adult market.
But she doesn't want to leave the impression that she hates disposables.
"They're our best friends. If there wasn't something wrong with them, we wouldn't be here."