Greenberries' parenting classes make it Howard's favorite consignment shop

Twin crusades to convert more parents to cloth diapering and to instill confidence in the art of “babywearing” have helped make Greenberries a destination for shoppers from as far away as Annapolis and Gaithersburg.

Providing education and support to parents wasn’t part of the original formula for the Columbia children’s and maternity consignment boutique, which is celebrating its fifth birthday with a party at the Snowden Center store Aug. 16.

But just six months after opening the store in 2009, owner Rachel Baliff jumped on a customer’s suggestion to sell cloth diapers. That led to Cloth Diapering 101. Other instruction followed in babywearing (toting a baby in a sling or carrier attached to the parent’s torso), making your own baby food, infant CPR and baby sign language, among other classes. 

The store, which also stocks new baby gear and children’s gifts, boasts five certified babywearing educators, including Baliff. They were trained by the Center for Babywearing Studies in New York City (yes, it’s real), and baby carriers remain a best-selling item. 

Greenberries has even branched out into off-site instruction, such as babywearing classes at the Robinson Nature Center, where strollers are prohibited. And Howard County General Hospital distributes the store’s educational materials, often prompting brand-new mothers to post questions to Greenberries’ social media sites from their hospital beds.

Thanks to Baliff’s approach, Greenberries has been voted best consignment shop by readers of both Howard and Maryland Family magazines for four consecutive years.

“I had a good feeling there’d be a demand” for a consignment store in Columbia, says Baliff, 45, who has an MBA from Arizona State University and “loves, loves, loves marketing.”

Before Greenberries, Baliff was a human resources professional with a dream to one day open her own store. When the 2008 recession turned her job into processing layoffs, the Columbia resident, who was then the mother of newborn Jack and 2-year-old Sophie, made the life-changing decision to leave corporate America and make her dream a reality. 

The store’s name was the happy result of trying combinations of colors and fruits. Many customers think “green” was chosen to imply recyclable or sustainable, she says. It wasn’t, but it’s worked well with the shop’s focus on eco-friendly merchandise.

In 2013, Shannon Thornton became the store’s marketing and events director to help keep the ideas flowing, and Baliff is contemplating adding a second location or franchising or both. 

“There is just so much more left on our to-do list,” Baliff says.

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