Diane Mastrull: The Nesting House branches out

Christopher and Jennifer Kinka, owners of the Nesting House in Mount Airy, opened a Collingswood branch July 26. Customers turn in children's clothing for cash or store credit on gently used children's clothing or other items.
Christopher and Jennifer Kinka, owners of the Nesting House in Mount Airy, opened a Collingswood branch July 26. Customers turn in children's clothing for cash or store credit on gently used children's clothing or other items. (DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer)
Posted: August 13, 2013

Even though a social media poll urged the expansion, and the town's mayor and director of community development wooed them, Jennifer and Christopher Kinka have, pardon the pun, still gone out on a bit of a limb with their Nesting House.

The Mount Airy entrepreneurs who have over the last three years attracted a loyal following of young parents with a retail concept built on eco-friendly, socially conscious principles have opened a second store in Collingswood.

The Nesting House opened at 710 Haddon Ave. on July 26 - 16 miles and in another state from the original. In Mount Airy, the couple introduced a Philadelphia community to the opportunity of turning in their young children's clothing for cash or store credit to be used for other gently used children's clothing or other items.

Their reception there was immediate and enthusiastic, no surprise for a progressive, well-educated neighborhood of 27,000 that has also embraced the food co-op Weaver's Way and its emphasis on organic and locally sourced foods. A store with the tag line "Responsible retail for the next generation" seemed a natural fit.

Unknown is how it will play in Collingswood, a town of nearly 14,000 that has been working hard over the last decade to lure young families to its neighborhoods and businesses to its downtown, where there is now a healthy helping of restaurants.

The objective is achieving "a good retail mix," said Cass Duffey, director of community development.

With retail recruitment part of her duties, she seized the opportunity when she learned of a poll the Nesting House owners were conducting on Facebook. Jennifer Kinka said it consisted of one question: "Where do you think we should go next?"

Duffey was on the phone to the Mount Airy store in a flash. Christopher Kinka answered.

"I said, 'Let me tell you why Collingswood is the bee's knees,' " she recalled last week. Her sales pitch included mention of a research project that revealed locals wanted "more retail with a sustainable bent."

In Collingswood, "sustainable and eco are huge," Duffey said, noting programs in bike-sharing, rain-collection, and curbside recycling

"I could hear [Kinka] nodding on the other end" of the phone, Duffey said.

Mayor Jim Maley made a separate plea. The Kinkas came for a walking tour and lunch - and were sold when they saw the available storefront on Haddon Avenue near Collings Avenue.

"It just felt right," Jennifer Kinka said one afternoon last week in their new store.

They have already noticed a change from Mount Airy, where the dominant business is the buy/sell/trade side - the Nesting House's roots. The sale of new items - cloth diapers, newborn accessories, toys, books - came later.

"In New Jersey, the new retail seems to be really active," Jennifer Kinka said.

The Nesting House began as a collaboration between Jennifer Kinka and Meredith Jacoby, who had operated the Maternal Wellness Center at the Carpenter Lane site until 2010. Kinka taught cloth-diaper classes there.

Each had two children at the time, and they were "talking about how fast we go through things," Jennifer Kinka said.

Then came the idea for a store where new parents could trade in their children's clothes - sizes 0 to 6 - and get store credit or cash.

The Nesting House opened in June 2010 and had reached profitability before the expense of the South Jersey expansion.

Jacoby left the business in January to relocate to Vermont, and Jennifer Kinka, 34, "pulled my husband in." The former teachers are parents to Shea, 6, Samuel, 4, and Norah, 1.

Because they want to keep the price of each clothing item they sell under $10 - coats and snowsuits are the exception - there isn't much wiggle room in what they will pay customers for them, Jennifer Kinka said. For instance, $5 is what they will offer for a Tea Collection dress they will sell for $8 or $9.

Unlike a consignment shop, customers do not have to wait for the clothes they drop off to sell before being compensated. They get paid on the spot.

It is one of the reasons Amy Francis continues to make the 45-minute drive to the Nesting House in Philadelphia twice a month. The molecular biologist and mother of two children - ages 6 and 2 - moved from Mount Airy to Newtown Square in November.

"I always get credit because I like the idea of offering up the things we no longer have a use for and trading it in for things the next size up that my children can use that maybe had a life of their own somewhere else," Francis said.

Diane Mastrull: >Inquirer.com

Nesting House co-owner Jennifer Kinka talks about how something old has helped them start something new.



Diane Mastrull at 215-854-2466, dmastrull@phillynews.com, or follow @dmastrull on Twitter.

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