“I took a huge risk,” Anthony Boulos tells me as he looks up from underneath his blue fitted cap. “That’s what life is. You should follow it sometimes and take some risks.”
Morning light pours in through floor-to-ceiling windows. Modern fixtures hang from high industrial ceilings. A statement clock made of clear peg lights reads 10:42. Lauren Hill and Bob Marley play softly in the background. As I look around me, it becomes overwhelmingly clear: I’m standing in the midst of a carefully crafted risk.
Boulos, owner of the children’s store, “kids at home,” is a former Bay Street mogul.
He chose to abandon a life of finance and purchased the name to the original children’s store located in the Beaches, in early 2015.
After some major rebranding, he chose to relocate the store to Leslieville, just on the outskirts of Riverdale. “Kids at home” has become a destination store for surrounding neighbourhoods and beyond.
Boulos ventured into the mutual fund industry after earning his engineering degree from McGill University, working his way up from sales. In his last position on Bay Street, he worked as the National Inside Sales Director at AGF Investments while completing an MBA at Ivey Business School at Western University.
In 2014, following his graduation from Ivey, Boulos took off work for the first summer in 15 years.
That December, Boulos had a pair of friends over to celebrate his wife’s birthday. While eating cake, the couple mentioned that they bought some things for a great price from “kids at home” during its closing sale.
As a resident of the Beaches and a father of three (an almost-six-year-old and 18-month-old twins), Boulos was a frequent customer at the original “kids at home” store. When he heard the store was closing, he saw it as an opportunity.
He called the then-owner, Marg Gillespie, and met for a four-hour lunch. The rest, as they say, is history!
When I first heard about Boulos’s move from Bay Street to Main Street, I imagined he would be an audacious and spontaneous fellow. But the Anthony Boulos that stands before me is both cool and calculated.
“I analyze everything. That’s my engineering background.”
Boulos explains that he purchased the store without inventory so that he could revamp the catalogue. From twin beds to teddy bears, Boulos handpicks every item to curate the best selection for each age group. He prefers products that are environmentally friendly and 80 per cent of the items in the store are Canadian-made.
Before making products available in the store, Boulos tests them to make sure that their quality upholds.
The store boasts a fast product turnover because of Boulos’s preference of quality over quantity. Fewer products also make for a clutter-free store, which Boulos suspects is why his clientele consists of an even number of males and females. Men often praise him on how much tidier “kids at home” is than typical children's stores, making their shopping experience much easier.
It’s no wonder that Boulos’s customers have pleaded with him to open stores in Paris, Dubai and other international locations.
“It’s fun to hear that,” he laughs. “I’m not opposed to opening new locations, but we’re going to go at our own pace.”
“In this great future, you can’t forget your past.” Bob Marley’s gritty voice echoes faintly throughout the store.
I ask Boulos how he looks back on his decision to leave Bay Street for entrepreneurship. He pauses and leans back in his chair.
“I’ve never looked back,” he assures me with confidence. “I don’t regret anything about it.”
kids at home
181 Carlaw Ave, Toronto, ON M4M 2S1