Merci Milo Is the Nostalgic Children's Shop of Your Dreams
Welcome to Mama Shops, an FM Journal series that highlights beautiful stores owned by mothers.
Like many modern mamas, Caroline Rodrigues always has her plate full. The mother of three, who also works as a freelance jewelry designer, started a nostalgic online children's shop a few years ago after relocating to Los Angeles from New York. Merci Milo, named for her youngest daughter, was something of a whim — a leap of faith after her previous corporate gig was not as she'd hoped — though being a shopkeep was actually in her blood.
After the online shop quickly earned a following of customers who loved finding a place to scoop up old-fashioned wooden and tin toys, tiny tea sets, dreamy dollhouses, and more toys and gifts that don't require wifi, a brick-and-mortar was the next step. And when she found an available spot in LA's burgeoning Highland Park, things just fell into place. We caught up with Caroline in the midst of Merci Milo's holiday madness (let's just say all cool Angeleno littles will be getting gifts from here) to learn more about which toys her kids are loving lately, the serendipitous story behind finding her storefront, and how she spends a well-earned day off in the neighborhood.
Obviously your shop is named after your daughter, Milo. Is there more to the story?
My late grandfather owned a children's shop in South LA for over 15 years. He's no longer with us, but I grew up with a family of retailers. It was always been a dream of mine to own my own shop just like him, but I didn't know exactly what I wanted to sell — just that it had to be something meaningful. Once Milo was born it just felt so right to start an online children's store, since I couldn't afford a brick and mortar shop at that time. She inspired us so much that we wanted to thank her for that drive and inspiration, so we named it "Merci Milo" which means "thank you Milo" in French. We chose French because our first family trip together was to Paris — my favorite city — and it was the most memorable one.
How and when did you end up opening the brick-and-mortar?
We opened in July and the space was referred by our friends from Knotwork LA. They found us this magical place and when I came to see it I instantly felt connected. This is a historic building and once was a horse carriage stable, which is why we had our friend Keiko of Small Adventure paint horses on the wall. And Milo's Chinese zodiac sign is a horse, so it all just made sense.
The shop is so nostalgic! Do you stock any toys connected to your own personal memories?
Oh yes! I wanted to only stock items that were reminiscent of my childhood (or anyone's childhood) like the Monchichi dolls, the woodland dolls, the Japanese animal characters, and the tin toys.
Besides Milo, you have two other kids. What's each other their favorite toys currently?
Milo loves her Doctor Pouch Kit! She brings it everywhere. She was hospitalized twice this year for a rare disease called Kawasaki, which attacks the blood vessels and causes heart aneurysms. I think that after that, she admires it even more. The doctors who helped her were so kind and now she now she'll telling us she wants to be one. My daughter Cailin is older so she really loves the Sonny Angels dolls that are from Japan. They come in a sweet little package and it's usually a surprise on what style of doll you would get. My son Darren is 13 now, so apparently he's too cool for toys, but he loves that his sisters are obsessed with everything from the shop. He's so sweet and attentive to the girls and he's even bought Milo small gifts here with money he earned from doing chores.
What some of your favorite things currently in the shop?
So much! Everything, but if I could only pick a handful I would say the Maileg Pink Powder Metal Kitchen Set, any of the Maileg Mice, Nailmatic Nail Polish, Polka Dot Club Bears, the Ostheimer Wooden Toys, and The Japanese Woodland Dolls!
You must be crazy busy as a mom with her own business and a side gig. What is your ideal way to spend a day off with family?
We really don't have much spare time since we started the brick and mortar! But when we do have a day off during the weekend, we really love to head to Travel Town at Griffith Park or spend some time at Huntington Gardens in Pasadena. We also love to visit all our favorite local spots, too, like Kitchen Mouse for brunch, Mister Holmes bakehouse for dessert, and Civil or Kindness and Mischief for coffee. We also love to go say high to our friends at Shop Sonomama and grab groceries for dinner at Cookbook!
Merci Milo is located at 131 1/2 S Avenue 60, Los Angeles, CA 90042 (For Google Maps Please use the Address 6010 Echo St). Hours: Monday through Friday, 11am to 7pm, Saturday and Sunday, 11am to 6pm.