Jade Aluna: A young doula's spin on a retail store

BRATTLEBORO — Before Jade Newton graduated from Brattleboro Union High School in 2015, she had completed a course to become a certified doula — while working full-time at the Putney Co-op and taking college courses through the Windham Collegiate High School. In the spring of 2016 she earned certification as a Licensed Nursing Assistant through the Red Cross program in Keene, N.H.

In early October — while still working full-time at the Putney Co-op — she opened Jade Aluna, a store for young children's clothing and home decor items, on High Street in Brattleboro. She also offers salon-style piercing at her store, which is open Thursday through Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m..

Newton, 20, is one of the youngest business owners in Brattleboro. In a recent interview at her store, she said that she hopes to develop Jade Aluna into an event space for workshops and groups, incorporating parent education as well as offering goods and clothing.

Newton's experience in retail goes back to her childhood.

"I grew up as a store kid in my mom's store, Silver Moon Adornments," she recalled. "So from the time I was three, I was helping customers and hiding in corners, and learning small business small proprietorship, so it was very ingrained."

As a child, Newton loved to play with dolls, and she took the babysitting class offered by the Red Cross.

"As a very young kid I took an interest in being a mom — but not just my own parenting," she noted.

As she got older, that interest focused on birth and conscious parenting, and completing the doula training offered by Brattleboro Memorial Hospital served that interest.

"For a long time, because I was young, it was sort of weird for me to be thinking about birth and babies, but for some reason I was really interested in it and felt passionate about it," she commented. "When I took that doula class, I was surrounded by other people who had that same passion, and I think that really helped me to acknowledge that it was something I could pursue even at that young age."

The doula training covered helping mothers in both the physical and emotional parts of childbirth.

"They had all different specialists come in, and we learned everything from massage techniques to birth positions to the more emotional-support side," Newton explained.

"After that I considered going to midwifery school, but I also had a strong love for entrepreneurship, and I wanted to combine those two things," she continued. She had taken a course in accounting in high school, and the class included work on sole proprietorships.

Jade Aluna offers a mix of new and pre-owned clothing, size newborn to 5-T. "Originally I wasn't going to do consignment, but I've gotten feedback that a lot of people are interested in it because children grow so fast," Newton noted.

She seized the opportunity to open the store when the location became available, and she enjoyed the challenge of pulling it together.

"I love having a creative outlet, and being able to put my energy into something and see the results," she said. "I really like being part of the Brattleboro community of small businesses. I think it's important to shop local and support the community in different ways. I've gotten a lot of positive feedback from people saying that it's great to have a children's store in town."

Opening a store has presented challenges. The space on High Street was previously an office, and some people may not have noticed the change of use.

"Even though it has a great floor-to- ceiling window, that works well for retail, it's been a little challenging to get people to notice that it's a retail store," Newton commented. "People on autopilot might just walk by."

Some of the challenges are small surprises.

"There's condensation on the window, and I hung clothes up in the window and made a nice display, and then I had to adjust and make a new display," she said.

"It was a good lesson in rolling with it — facing a problem and quickly finding solutions. When you go into business, even if you think you've thought of every little thing, there will be things you couldn't have thought about."

Maggie Brown Cassidy, a frequent contributor to the Reformer, can be contacted at mcassidy@sover.net.


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