Every neighborhood in America should have a store that is an extension of its residents - a place that feels like it’s been there forever because you can’t remember what you did before it opened, a store that sells exactly what you need and is there when you need it, while also providing you with a place to meet friends and create memories. In Fort Greene, Brooklyn, we are lucky as parents to have that place in The Hank & Jojo Shop.
Hank & Jojo is the Fort Greene parents’ store. Owned and operated by a Fort Greene mom and continuously fueled by the feedback from the rest of us, Hank & Jojo provides the parents of our neighborhood with everything we need. Whether it’s their stylish clothes and accessories, their thoughtfully curated collection of toys and gifts, or their diverse selection of children’s classes, you will find what you need here - not to mention some clutch greeting cards!
One of our favorite baby cards...featuring Hank & Jojo tube socks.
Located at 218 Dekalb Ave, it’s neighbor to some of your favorite restaurants and a block away from what my daughter refers to as “Camel Park.” Andriana Caradimitropoulo Spence, or Andy - as she’s affectionately known to her friends and local customers - opened Hank & Jojo in 2012. She has lived in the neighborhood since 2009 and saw a need for a store that provided both hip wearable fashion for little ones and a space for them to learn and grow.
Andy with her new baby, Declan.
Little Brooklynites showing off their best dance moves in musical theater class.
Even though Hank & Jojo, the store, seems like an obvious fit, it wasn’t initially the goal Andy had from the beginning. Yes, Andy has always envisioned owning her own business, but she started her career in the world of Fashion Public Relations. It was her genius idea of baby tube socks that gave her the reason to jump into the world of entrepreneurialism and turn her vision into a reality. This reality included coming up with the design (and money) on her own. She invested in her idea and brought it to the market in what can only be described as a story that should be featured on Shark Tank.
Her socks have been spotted on the children of many celebrities, including Sarah Jessica Parker, Gwen Stefani, and Jessica Alba, but what makes Andy the most proud is the help her tube socks have provided to children with disabilities. Her socks have helped eased the pain for many children suffering from a clubbed foot that required them to wear a leg brace. Since the socks are made of bamboo, which is softer than cotton, breathes and is anti-microbial, they can be worn comfortably with leg braces without irritation. Plus, the unique length comes in handy when the legs need to be covered underneath the hard braces. Andy said, “I have received countless thanks and beautiful photos from customers who have used the socks in this way. And the best part is that it has all been by word of mouth!”
Baby Maeve staying comfy in Hank & Jojo socks.
Andy has thoroughly enjoyed working for herself. She says, “When you start a company all on your own, it can be really hard to manage all of the work. But, I've also found that the positive side is you also get to make all the decisions.” In 2011 when she was given the opportunity to open a pop-up shop at The Dekalb Market, which was an outdoor market made of repurposed shipping containers right down the street from where she lives, she jumped at this chance to take her company in a completely different direction than she had originally planned. When the market closed less than two years later, Andy researched commercial spaces in Brooklyn and thus Hank & Jojo – Brick & Mortar was established.
We are in love with the toile wallpaper from fellow Brooklyn Company Flavor Paper.
In Andy’s words, “The Fort Greene parent is probably the coolest there is. They're eco-conscious, but not overly extreme about it. They're really hip (like hard-to-keep-up-with hip!). They're creative - so many of us work for ourselves or in creative fields.” This perspective gives Andy the advantageous position that allows her to successfully chose products that appeal directly to these parents. From the onesie featuring an image of black-rimmed glasses to the bib that actually looks like a bandana or the bowtie necklace and stylish trucker hats, Andy makes it easy for the Fort Greene parent to keep up with the trends. The toys on sale are all eco-conscious and are not gender restricting. Some of our favorites include Green Toys kitchen set and Goldie Blox and the Spinning Machine. You can’t go wrong picking up Body Doodlers or Eco-Dough as a gift for your next birthday party.
If you have been lucky enough to get a spot in one of the amazing classes Hank & Jojo has on its roster, you know what a positive addition they are to the neighborhood. (if you haven’t yet, there’s still time to sign up – here) Offering classes was always a part of Andy’s game plan for her brick and mortar location. “Being a local parent, I knew there weren't as many options here as there are in other neighborhoods for music and art classes for tots, so I was hoping to fill that gap!.” She explains,“During the week retail can often be slow, so having the kids and parents come in and out throughout the day is awesome and I think we've really created quite a community here. The two sides of the business really go hand in hand, I couldn't do one without the other!”
Family yoga on the newly installed back patio.
When Andy asked me to teach an art class at her store I was thrilled. After seeing how my daughter, Georgia, soaked up everything she was experiencing and learning at such a young age, I started daydreaming about teaching an art class to toddlers that focused on famous artists, exposed them to their masterpieces, and then allowed them to experiment with the medium at an age appropriate level. I had mentioned this to Andy and once she made the offer to me, I immediately started doing research and drafted up a proposal. My class is just one of many that provides a place for children to connect with their parents, caregivers, and friends. Watching the students interact with each other and be inspired by the artist is my favorite part of class. Observing them as they bond with their parent or nanny gives me a nice perspective on the community. It really warms the heart. Seeing their excitement during class and then hearing the stories from their parents about how their experience has carried on to their life outside of the store is so much fun.
Our little artists showing off their renditions of Georgia O'Keeffe "Sky Above Clouds"
Watching Milo’s eyes light up when we sang “If you’re happy and you know it” or seeing the cheek-to-cheek smile stay permanently on Marilyn as she covered her entire piece of paper (and pretty much the whole table) with finger paint are just a few of those moments.
Marilyn in action!!
There was one moment when I was asking the class who’s name started with “M” and my daughter exclaimed “Mom, Mom starts with M.” I almost cried right there.
Then there are the moments I don’t witness but are a result of events that have occurred at Hank & Jojo. Claire’s mom, Rogene, told me how her daughter recognized a Van Gogh painting in one of her Olivia story books. Nate’s mom, Patty, thought it was hilarious that he asked if the photo of an author in the back of the book was “Andy Warhol.”
Grandma Lynn and Mom Margaret thoroughly enjoying Milo's tiny handprint.
Having Hank & Jojo in our neighborhood has created so many more opportunities for people to have moments like these.
Andy recently had her third child. Being a mom allows her to truly connect with her customers. I once witnessed Andy empathize with a new mom who was thrilled to have stumbled upon the store and know that Andy was ok with her stopping in whenever she needed to nurse her newborn baby. I’m sure Andy understood exactly how she felt. I remember those early days when your sole concern is to keep your baby fed and happy and everything else is pretty much a blur. It was heartwarming to see this woman feel comfort, now having this retreat in the neighborhood store.
Andy's adorable children: Ronnie, Declan, Jojo, and we can't forget Jane Russell.
Andy is also very supportive of other entrepreneurs, women specifically. Being in the kids industry she says that “the majority of products are developed by moms, so it is an easy place to support female entrepreneurs!” While doing trade shows she has met many mom-owned brands. “I'm still friends with many of them, like The Green Egg, Babiators, Lettie Belle, Auggie and obviously Love Jac!”
We couldn’t highlight Hank & Jojo without asking Andy what Love Jac card was her favorite. “I have always liked, "I always knew you'd be a great mom". The image on it is so nostalgic for me, and it is something every kid does. Such a sweet reminder of how much children look up to their mothers.”
I am not only a Fort Greene parent, I became a parent in Fort Greene. In the short three years I’ve been pushing my baby up and down the hills of Fort Greene Park, I have learned to love this neighborhood and its diversity. The community is truly one that will embrace you. It grows and changes and adapts to the needs of its residents. I would like to personally thank Hank & Jojo for everything they have added to the community. If you have a story or experience you’d like to share as well, please leave it below in the comments.
**Andy has great taste in both style and music. (Did you notice the incredible Brooklyn toile wallpaper?) Listen to her music playlists on Spotify (we personally love her Winter Shop Mix), check out her blog - Mall The Rage, and follow her on Instagram for an inside look into her world. And, if you don't live in New York, remember you can always shop online at www.hankandjojo.com