Petite Boutique - Portait: Ines Colmorgen S/S 12

On Berlin’s busy Auguststrasse, between some of the hottest pubs and restaurants in the city’s Mitte district, one also finds the Petite Boutique, a shop for children. From a distance Ines Colmorgen’s shop seems somewhat subdued, yet one look at the items display in the window provides an inkling of why this is a place where children’s hearts often begin to beat faster. If you walk under the mistletoe and enter the shop, even adults will find themselves in what seems to be a forgotten world.
Inside, one encounters an interior alternating between modern purism and whimsical, traditional elements: the walls are painted dark grey, gym bars hanging from the ceiling support clothes and lighting, and a wooden counter, equipped with lots of little drawers, stretches the entire width of the shop. Behind it, shelves reaching up to the ceiling, reminiscent of an oversized type case, provide spaces for numerous boxes, little boots and selected books.

Leaning against the counter, we find Ines Colmorgen, still in her coat and with a cup of coffee in her hand, already in conversation with a customer. “I am not entirely here yet,” she says after the woman has left the shop, then she smiles and takes off her coat before finally turning on all the lights. With her vintage clothes and short light blond hair, the young businesswoman fits into the nostalgic atmosphere of her shop perfectly. “I opened the shop in 2007. It was always clear to me that I wanted to open a children’s shop one day. I don’t know exactly why, but sometimes that’s just the way it is.”

New customer enters the shop. The woman has come to pick up a few items that are already waiting for her as gift-wrapped presents. This is a service Ines Colmorgen offers at Christmastime. “My husband already bought the book, so can I exchange it for something else?” Of course she can. Colmorgen serenely peels the wrapping paper from the book and helps the customer come up with another idea. Finally, they arrive upon two pretty barrettes from the wide assortment displayed on the counter, and Ines Colmorgen calmly writes up a receipt by hand.

Another customer is interested in the furniture in the wooden dollhouse that also serves as decoration in the shop window. She kneels down in front of it and remarks with a laugh, “I sometimes wonder whether I am buying all of this for myself or for the child!”

This is where the shop’s special atmosphere makes itself felt. As an adult, one feels immediately transported back to childhood between the Astrid Lindgren books, wooden toys and Schleich figures. The Petite Boutique is not one of those fancy shops where you’re afraid to even turn around or touch anything. And it makes no sense to look for hot new lifestyle products designed down to the very last detail. “I just wanted it to have the feeling of a little shop on the corner. Personal contact is important to me. That’s why I always use the familiar form with my customers and try to discover what it is they’re looking for in a real conversation.”

Nostalgia plays an important role in the shop’s concept. “I purchase toys that remind me of days past based on gut feeling,” says the university-trained fashion designer. Her own taste also plays an important role in relation to the choice of clothing. “I don’t ask myself, what could work, but instead act upon what I like. If I don’t find anything appropriate, then I make it myself, just like the chains for soothers or little handkerchiefs. I would never bring anything into the shop that didn’t fit in with the structure.”

Even if it seems like time has been standing still in the shop, this is not true of the merchandise. “I am always looking for new, young labels, but I have to be convinced by both the price and the quality. I also don’t always hang everything I have out in the shop right away. The customers should always be able to discover something new.” The current selection is oriented on one of the regularly alternating themes that are also represented in the shop window, they invite passers-by to come into the shop.”

“I didn’t want to open up a children’s shop where everything was light pink or baby blue. There are already enough of those. Sometimes older customers come into my shop and find it too dark. But you can’t please all of the people all of the time anyway.” Colmorgen was inspired to decorate the shop in darker colours, clearly bucking the mainstream, while in Paris. “I’ve always been fascinated by the way shops are decorated there, it really highlights the children’s articles. I brought that back to Berlin with me and combined it with classic German elements.”

Two girls come into the shop looking for an appropriate present. They all use the familiar form as a matter of course and Ines Colmorgen asks them how their day at school went. At this point, an outsider feels like the scene has shifted from Berlin-Mitte to some sort of village setting. “I have a lot of regular customers whose children I’ve known since they were born,” the shop owner explains.

Suddenly, she’s run out of big bags. “I’m just going next door to Do you read me? to get a few!”, Colmorgen tells the customers and just walks out. Here, in this microcosm, the anonymity of the big city is dispelled and helping a neighbour becomes the most natural thing in the world.

“Why Berlin? For me there is no more interesting city in Germany. Here, young people have so many different ways of developing their potential. I couldn’t imagine opening up a shop anywhere else. Although I have often thought about a second shop nearby, but I can’t divide myself in two, and my shop thrives on my being here.” Right now, an online shop is out of the question. “The Internet, no, that’s not for me,” she laughs – and then you just know that it wouldn’t be half as enjoyable to shop on the Internet, instead of browsing in this unique shop here in Berlin-Mitte, where plenty of advice is available.

 

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