Seven-year-old Kathryn Lilja cannot walk along North Park Avenue without stopping to look inside her favorite store.
There’s just a tiny sign in the window, but that doesn’t stop loyal customers, such as Kathryn and her mother, Kelly McQuady, from recognizing the store with the bright yellow door.
“We have been coming here since she was 8 weeks old, when they were in a little yellow house off Fairbanks,” McQuady said.
Kathryn, with her metal frames, shoulder-length blond hair and white summer dress swirling with blue, red and black dots, wandered about tugboat & the bird on Saturday, as she has been doing since she was able to walk — and she was not the only returning customer who helped the children’s clothing store live to see its 10th anniversary.
The store was bustling with little girls and boys during the carnival-style birthday party on Saturday. Some were looking at accessories, some were trying on pink ballet skirts adorned with shiny studs, some were taking advantage of the face painting that was taking place in the courtyard, and some were donating to tugboat’s Tweets, a candy charity started by store owner Laura Haftel’s daughter Gracie.
One thing the kids did have in common, though, was that most of them have been wearing Tugboat and the bird clothing since the day they were born.
It is part of the reason tugboat & the bird has been able to stay open for so long, said store manager Missy Riegel, who knows all of her regular customers and their parents on a first-name basis.
“We build relationships with our customers,” she said.
The store also offers annual family events such as Breakfast with Santa and Pictures with the Easter Bunny, which Riegel feels keeps the community involved and the customers happy.
This year, for their 10th anniversary, they had a weeklong celebration that began on Sept. 12 and offered daily raffle prizes donated by sponsoring vendors and multiple discounts to customers.
“It’s a way our vendors can thank us for sticking with them, and then we can in turn thank our customers for being so loyal,” Haftel said.
Located at 318 N. Park Ave., Winter Park, tugboat & the bird is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Call 407-647-KIDS or visit tugboatandthebird.com
On Saturday afternoon, balloons with discounts inside were flying from the clothing racks, rubber ducklings were floating in the courtyard pond and the popcorn machine was giving the store a familiar smell.
The store moved from its New England location to the Park Avenue location a year and a half ago. But Haftel said she hopes they’re finished moving.
“I think we are here to say,” Haftel said. “We’ve anchored on Park Avenue.”