When Shane Christensen was getting married, he and his soon-to-be wife enjoyed going around the local stores and filling out their bridal registry. But when his wife got pregnant with their first child, they found themselves somewhat stymied by all the choices for babies.
"You wonder what crib is right? Do I need the wipe warmer?" Christensen says. "And you're also worried about the baby. It's a very stressful time."
Now a seasoned parent of two, Christensen aims to take that stress away for other parents through a new concept on baby stores. Wonder!, a 135,000-square-foot, one-stop shopping destination, opened at the end of October and promises to be the place where new parents can get advice from the experts.
Parent advocates work with moms- and dads-to-be to help decide what they need: everything from gear to clothing to toys.
"They know all the products, what's necessary, what's not necessary, and can take the time to walk you through this entire process," Christensen says.
The store will also focus on parents' needs - including items like good coffee.
The most interesting part is that the store has no cash registers. All check-out is done on hand-held devices. In fact, kids can bring their phones - or borrow yours - and scan their birthday wishes to Grandma.
The store's inventory consists of boutique and specialty items for children 7 and under, and is also available through an online store. There's a cafe/restaurant serving healthy food, as well as a half-acre interactive playscape where kids can climb or do quieter activities such as arts and crafts. The play area also features technological toys and 20-foot live trees.
For parents with kids with behavioral issues, the space is wide open, with muted colors and an easy-going atmosphere.
A portion of the building is dedicated to classrooms for kids and includes everything from cooking to dance to art to music. They're even offering chess classes, and a zoology program. The rooms can also be used for birthday parties.
Liz DeCarlo is the senior editor at Chicago Parent.
See more of Liz's stories here.