Magic Beans is owned by a dynamic mom n’ pop team, and family is integral to everything we do. So when we were selecting a new management team for our Fairfield, Connecticut store, it made perfect sense to put a couple in charge! Lauren Roach, most recently of our Cambridge store, is stepping up to become our Manager in Fairfield, and her fiancée Kyle Mellino, most recently of our Boston store, will be joining her as Assistant Manager.
This is longer than the usual manager Q&As I put on here, but this thoroughly charming twosome have a lot to say! Their passion for toys, baby gear, and providing an extraordinary customer service experience pops right out of the page, and I have a feeling that our lucky Fairfield customers are going to spend many hours merrily debating about strollers and Star Wars with these two. They love working for Magic Beans, and you’re going to love shopping with them!
Q: Congratulations on your new co-management gig, and your engagement! What are you most excited about at your new store?
Lauren: Whoa, are we excited! I can’t even imagine where to begin. Maybe it’s the adorable orange awnings, or the incredible square footage, but honestly, I’m most excited to meet Fairfield! Every single customer interaction I’ve had so far has been beyond pleasant, and I can’t wait to get to know the families who live here.
Kyle: Thank you! I’m really excited about it and I know Lauren is as well. I am really looking forward to working in such a beautiful store in such an awesome little town! I’m really looking forward to getting to know the customers here and become a part of the community. Everyone we have met so far in the store and in the town have been absolutely wonderful and I am so excited to help them all in our own special Magic Beans way!
Q: Tell me a bit about how you wound up working at Magic Beans, and your trajectory up through the company. Did you meet while working here?
Lauren: Kyle and I were dating for three years before he started working for Magic Beans at the Prudential Center. Kyle had been working for Magic Beans for a year when I was looking for new employment opportunities. Everything I had heard about Magic Beans literally was magical. I was invited to company cook outs, bowling parties, and both Eli and Sheri hugged me every time they saw me. Magic Beans employees were at our engagement party, and I was welcomed into this family before I even started working there. It only seemed natural that I applied to work at the Cambridge store in August, when there was an opening.
I started as sales lead and was promoted to Assistant Manager in around two months – only because I had the best, most motivational manager, Meghan Monroe. I’ve worked in retail for about 10 years, and most recently in specialty stores, meaning I LOVE to nerd out. Meghan loved to nerd out. Kyle loved to nerd out. Before I knew it I was talking to anyone I knew about strollers, car seats, developmental toys for kids, and of course, Frozen. Meghan took me under her wing and without her and the marvelous team that IS Magic Beans, I certainly would not be the bean I am today!
When Kyle and I were presented the opportunity of a lifetime (working together!) how could we say no?
Kyle: I was working at a job pretty far from Boston when a close friend of Lauren strongly recommended that I check out Magic Beans, calling it “the best company I have ever worked for,” so I knew it had to be good! I had some customer service experience under my belt when I started working at the Prudential, which was incredibly flexible with my school schedule and with the help of Theo, Abigail, and Meghan, I was brought into the fold of what became a dream team. After the first holiday season I felt like a seasoned veteran and ended up getting a key to the store!
A few months after that I earned the position of sales-lead, and very shortly after that the opportunity to be the assistant manager at Fairfield presented itself, and how could I say no? I am so happy to work with the love of my life (Lauren, obviously :P) every day, we really make such an awesome team and I’m really in love with the Magic Beans way. It’s so much fun to work for a company that truly puts the customers’ needs first, and encourages the employees to be as helpful as possible to provide the greatest customer experience there is in the industry.
Q: Are you excited to be moving down to Fairfield? What do you like best about Fairfield, and about southern Connecticut, so far?
Lauren: Each person we’ve met here who learns we’re from Boston immediately greets us with “Welcome to Fairfield!” It’s incredibly warm and welcoming. Kyle and I are sort of foodies and so far everyone we’ve met has at least 10 of their favorite restaurants to recommend. This is a town of seriously refined and worldly cuisine and I’m obsessed already! The Old Post Tavern, just a few doors down from us on the Post Road, legitimately welcomed us in with open arms, and has quite possibly the best bar food menu I have ever seen! Plus, Fairfield is gorgeous! It’s cute, quaint, and seems to have a little of everything.
Kyle: So anyone that knows me knows that I’m a huge foodie and am a total coffee freak, and my impression so far of the town is that everyone is a huge foodie here as well and I KNOW I’m going to fit in perfectly. There are so many awesome-looking little restaurants and cafes that I can’t wait to try.
Also, the town is about as cute as it gets! There are beautiful trees everywhere, and the scenery is gorgeous. Also this time of year the air is crisp and refreshing and I couldn’t be happier. And I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been greeted with “Welcome to Fairfield” from the people of this town! It really is such a tight knit community and feels like a family.
As I’m writing this alongside Lauren in the same room, we just realized that we are pretty much amazed by all the same things. I’m also really excited to be close to New York since I am a musician and huge jazz fanatic, and I am looking forward to being able to see some live jazz in the big city!
Q: What do you think makes Magic Beans Fairfield extra-special?
Lauren: We’re one of the largest Magic Beans locations, meaning that we have lots of space for products – it’s a terrific selection! It’s extremely rare that we don’t have exactly what our customers are looking for, which is great because they get to go home with what they needed today, with no waiting.
Kyle: I think Magic Beans itself is extra-special, but Fairfield is special for me at least because I get to work side by side with my fiancé. We have always made a great team, and even work well together in the kitchen – if you get us together working on a meal you should watch out! We also have a stellar team of employees, and I think we are poised to really deliver great customer service to each and every person that comes under our orange awning.
Q: Let’s get a bit into some autobiographical details: where did you grow up? Are you from Boston? If not, how did you wind up living up here? Are you bummed to be leaving?
Lauren: I’ve lived in many places, from Milwaukee to Paris, but I was born in Boston and went to college in Boston. Leaving Boston is bittersweet, it’s “home” and we both have our families and friends there, but we’re both adventurous and were so excited to be presented with this opportunity as we start this next chapter in our lives.
Kyle: I grew up in Bridgewater MA, and I’m the youngest of three brothers. My parents Joe and Rose have a beautiful love story and are a living example of the American Dream, and they have always been the most loving and supportive parents a kid could hope for. Boston has always been and will always be my home, but when I was just a small child I told my mother that I wanted a house on wheels. So when I graduated from high school and it was time for college, I didn’t even look within Massachusetts! I wanted to see more of the world, so I ended up at Michigan State for a couple years. Michigan is beautiful, and I still miss it! Then I came home and worked some odd jobs before going to guitar building school in Phoenix Arizona, another adventure!
Finally, I came back home to Boston and started to go back to school for business, and then Magic Beans called my name and I fell in love. I’m not bummed at all about leaving, I love Boston but I do love to travel and leave it because coming home is that much sweeter! It’s time for another change of pace.
Q: What are your hobbies outside of work?
Lauren: I used to volunteer for the city of Boston part-time as an archaeology field and lab technician. I double majored in college in history and anthropology, with a concentration in archaeology, so you could say I’m a little dorky. I love cooking, reading, gardening, hiking, and being outside. I like to think I can cook just about anything, but I literally can’t bake a thing. Kyle is a much better baker than I, but we work so well in the kitchen together and always have fun doing so!
Kyle: One word: music! If you want me to talk your ear off, get me started about music. I’m a bass player of over 15 years, and have been sprinkling guitar into that for the last 7 years, and I like it all, especially if it’s a little weird. Some of my favorite composers are Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Tchaikovsky, Chopin, Les Claypool, Lennon & McCartney, Buddy Guy, Bob Dylan, Jack White, and Robert Johnson, to name a few.
Q: What’s your favorite TV show of all time?
Lauren: I know it’s totally cliche, but I love Sex and the City. Like everyone else, I’ve seen every episode ever, but I can’t help but watch the re-runs when they’re on!
Kyle: I might have to go with Robot Chicken, I love how random and crazy it is. I think the very best bits are the ones that are about 6 seconds long. I love all the little one-liner jokes, and of course the Star Wars parodies, I can’t get enough! Also being a huge Star Wars fan and since we have so many products that relate to the animated Clone Wars series I also started watching that and binge watched the entire series in about two weeks….so yeah that’s gotta be the top of my list too.
Q: Do you have any special babies or kids among your families or friends who inspire you at your work?
Lauren: Do we! The two apples of our eyes have to be are our niece, Kaelyn, and Townes, the son of our very best friends. Kaelyn is our peanut, the happiest and sassiest little girl you’ve ever seen. She’s the quintessential three-going-on-thirteen-year-old. She loves singing “Let It Go” into her ELC Pink Singalong Microphone, plus chatting, and having tea. We bought her the Green Toys tea set, but when we put water in the tea kettle she promptly poured it on the couch! We also had fun exchanging, “one lump or two?” comments. She reminds me that all girls really are made of sugar, spice, and everything nice.
Our self proclaimed “nephew,” Townes, was born at 29 weeks, in January of the year before I started working at Magic Beans. Kyle and I made a point to educate ourselves on every and anything available geared to premature babies. Luckily for us, Magic Beans was the exact resource that we were looking for and we were able to provide our friends in Houston with all the support and knowledge that was available to us! This family has told us multiple times that they wish they had a Magic Beans in Houston. Townes is now just shy of a year old and is the sweetest, silly, and most expressive baby, I feel very confident in saying, that anyone has ever seen.
Kyle: Yes, two very special little ones come to mind. Three years ago this February my oldest brother Joe became a dad and I became an uncle to Kaelyn Rose Mellino, aka Peanut. She is the sweetest and cutest little girl you could imagine!
Also, last January our friends in Houston got an early arrival of their beautiful son Townes, who arrived in just under three pounds and almost too much cuteness to handle. One of my favorite moments was a video that his mom Amanda shared of Townes almost not able to sit up because he was so tired, and then she would pull some tape off the roll and he totally lost it over and over, he was laughing so hard and it was a total cuteness overload.
Q: Let’s talk about your favorite products: what’s your favorite stroller at Magic Beans?
Lauren: Ah yes, the never ending discussion between Kyle and I. Don’t get me wrong, there actually isn’t a single stroller I dislike at Magic Beans, and there are so many different options that are best for each family.
That being said, I am the Stokke fanguurl, and therefore I love the Stokke Xplory stroller. I’m crazy about Stokke’s parent-child connection philosophy. The Xplory is set higher than any other stroller I’ve ever seen, allowing parent child eye contact, which is so important in those first few years! Not only is it great developmentally for your child, but the stroller is also pretty lightweight and agile, and is available in the most cosmopolitan color palate and fabrics. As someone who is fond of aesthetics and practicality, for me the Xplory takes the cake.
If I had to guess, my sweet fiancé will choose either the 2015 Uppababy Vista or the Bugaboo Cameleon 3. Even though we don’t have children yet, we have strong opinions on strollers and love to debate and compare them!
Kyle: Kyle: My favorite stroller has got to be the 2015 Uppababy Vista, hands down, all day long. I love that thing! Uppababy has packed in SO many features that SO many parents want, all right there on one stroller! Tons of storage, aneasy fold that stands alone, the Mesa car seat clicks in without an adapter, the wheels have the new Air-Go technology, a magnetic peek-a-boo window that you can tie open, the telescoping handle bar, the extendable sun-shade, not to mention the bassinet stand that you can get that converts to a double hamper with a simple attachment. Babies don’t quite have a reputation for being neat and tidy, so having a backup double hamper can be a life saver to many parents!
Q: What other baby gear do you always recommend to new and expectant parents?
Lauren: The Uppababy Mesa infant car seat. If you have your baby in a hospital, you can’t take your child home without a car seat, and I like the Mesa in particular because of its easy installation. I have adopted car seat guru Benedict Sung’s m.o. on selling car seats: the safest car seat you can buy is the one you can correctly install every single time.
That being said, everyone is different and every car is different! However, the Mesa comes with a five star government rating on ease of installation. It has sophisticated self-ratcheting LATCH, ball level indicators, and clear “green” and “red” bars on the top and side of the base demonstrating that it’s installed correctly – I just think that’s the best thing EVER! Plus, finally, Uppababy plays nice with most of the other stroller brands we carry, so if the Vista or Cruz don’t fit your lifestyle, it’s not hard to find another stroller that will adapt nicely to your Mesa.
Also Chewbeads! Chewbeads are my go-to gift for expectant parents. They are restaurant grade silicone beads that the caregiver wears while holding a teething child. They’re dishwasher safe, and are available in so many different colors and styles. Perfection for carrying around little ones who are always grabbing at your necklace anyway!
Kyle: One of my favorite things to recommend is Mama Mio’s Liquid Yoga bath soak. I think that just because you are about to be new parents doesn’t mean you can’t pamper yourselves. I know it’s not gear, but I like to remind parents that even though they are going through a whirlwind of chaos with a new baby on the way, it’s important to take a little time for yourselves! Any type of product that helps parents relax a little bit or different types of care products that make you feel good are things I like to recommend.
As far as actual gear, I like to browse carriers with our customers and help them figure out what would work best for them. Sometimes it’s something they haven’t even thought of, so it’s a nice way to help continue to relieve the stress from my customers but also to reassure them that they are in the very best of hands as soon as they walk through our doors at Magic Beans. Nothing beats having a stressed out soon-to-be-parent come in and leave with a stress-free smile, knowing they just got expert advice, personalized guidance, and loving care from our staff. It makes everyone feel good!
Q: What are your go-to toys to recommend for customers shopping for birthday presents?
Lauren: I could probably write a dissertation on my favorite toys at Magic Beans, but I won’t for everyone’s sake! Okay, top three: Sands Alive, Mess Free Glitter, anything by Melissa and Doug, and LEGO. All LEGO. All day. DUPLO, Juniors, City, Friends, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, oh em gee I love LEGO. We both love LEGO. In fact, we read and watch documentaries about LEGO. Did you know LEGO means “play well” in Danish? I digress…
Kyle: I always start with a question: I’ll ask what birthday boy or girl might be interested in and how old they are. We have so many awesome toys to choose from, so we have to start to narrow down so we can make the BEST recommendations, but my favorite is when the gift is for someone who likes a few things so I can tour the store with my customer and show them so many different toys and especially toys that overlap interests because it’s the best way to showcase the many different educational, building, science, developmental and creative toys we have to offer.
If I had to pick some blind go-to toys though one I would go with the Super Ball, which has an immense “coefficient of restitution,” which basically just means it bounces like crazy! Another favorite would have to be Schleich figures. I recently started getting some for myself knowing that I was setting myself up for having to buy more. It’s such a great classic toy that is amazing for pretend play and imaginative play, and I am STILL enthralled by those little farm animals, sharks and dinosaurs!
Q: What toy at our stores would you have been begging for as a little kid?
Lauren: All of the LEGOs, the Pop Pop Piano, a Spirograph (I totally had one as a kid…and maybe even through high school, ha ha) and definitely a Kickboard USA Maxi Scooter. I may or may not still enjoy riding on said scooter to this day…
Kyle: I love LEGO now and I loved it as a kid. I think my favorite sets would have to be the Star Wars sets, mainly the Gungan Sub. I don’t think The Phantom Menace was all that great but that scene in the movie is cool and that LEGO set is pretty sweet. Also the Millennium Falcon, both for obvious reasons but also because it comes with all the best mini figures, including Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Obi Wan Kenobi, Darth Vader, Leia Organa and Chewbacca, what else could you want? Maybe a Boba Fett… and Yoda… and R2-D2… but no Ewoks!
Q: What’s your favorite thing about working for Magic Beans?
Lauren: The best part about working for Magic Beans is that being at work is different every single day! Not only do I get to meet all of these unique fun families, but I get to know them, we get to be on a first name basis with each other, and I get to know the products they use and love. I love chatting it up with kids about their favorite Frozen character or what type of die cast car they think is the coolest. I love helping parents pick out a stroller that works for their individual family, finding birthday gifts that I know are awesome because I’ve actually played with them myself, and helping create registries with soon-to-be parents by walking them through any and everything they’re curious about. We make a point to individually cater to our customers, and to be the experts on baby gear and toys!
No one said raising children was easy, but if we can help a little (or a lot), it is incredibly satisfying at the end of the day. And the long-lasting relationships we get out of assisting these families are priceless.
An easier question would be, what don’t I like about working for Magic Beans? Nothing! Duh.
Kyle: I love being able to get to know someone and help them get set up with everything they need. I also love having conversations with customers about baby gear, and nerding out over strollers! Being a part of bringing an excellent customer experience to everyone who visits us really is a great feeling. There is such a great sense of satisfaction, pride, and accomplishment that comes with a job well done at Magic Beans, and when you are able to do what we do here it really shows through in the outpouring of gratitude from the customers who receive our expert advice.
Like I said before, nothing beats being able to take away all the stress from a new parent and replace it with hard earned sigh of relief. People come to us because they trust us to provide them with the best service in the business, and it’s my absolute pleasure to do so.