Service Provider Spotlight: Stroller Spa NYC

There’s no doubt about it – city moms use their strollers like people in other places use cars. We drive them all over the city – up and down subway steps backwards, through grass in the park, on the rough terrain of broken sidewalk pieces, over curbs, in the rain, sleet, snow…you get the idea. They take a serious beating. But fortunately for us, the amazing Stroller Spa (formerly known as Buggy Bubbles) has come to our fair city, so we sat down with co-owner and partner Allison Leale to get the dirt on…well, the dirt. Allison’s story is an interesting one, and she offers up some great tips on how to keep your stroller from breaking down under the BQE:

How did you get involved with Stroller Spa?

I have this little notebook where I write down ideas as they come to me. That will be important. So two and a half years ago we’re out for a walk and we’re on the corner and our stroller is just sooo disgusting. I said to my husband “I wish I could just drop this off somewhere and it would come back clean.” So there’s an idea. It went in the notebook.

I started doing some research, and Buggy Bubbles kept popping up. But there were all these questions – when am I going to do this? Where am I doing to do this? So a few months go by and I just sort of sit on it, but I keep hearing people say “I really wish someone would clean my stroller.” So I came up with a new name, and planned to launch the business here in NYC.

My husband then (correctly) pointed out…um, you have no idea what you’re doing! Why don’t you just call the owner to get some information and guidance? So I call Jamie Mamikunian (Stroller Spa’s founder) in May 2011 and she tells me that literally the day before she had posted on her site that they were beginning to franchise. So I went out to California to meet her in August, I came back, and…

The rest is history?

Kind of. It has been so busy, I can’t even tell you. What was in my three to five year plan is happening now. I thought some seasons would be slower than others, like winter or summer, but there just doesn’t seem to be a dead season – they’re all busy!

A key part of our success, I can tell you, is the welcome addition of my partner, Carolyn Pravda. We partnered up to make a bigger expansion in NYC, and she has just been fantastic. Whereas I come from a teaching background, Carolyn comes from business and marketing, so her expertise has been invaluable.

So where do you do all this stroller rejuvenation?

Well, we are about to get an actual space, but in the meantime we work on gear in workshops carved out of our apartments. Fortunately, we both have outdoor space, but it’s all us. We do everything by hand – all the tires are picked and scrubbed by us, all the pickups and drop-offs, all the repairs – everything.

Wow. How many strollers do you guys have in your apartment at any one time?

Right now, five. But it’s getting bigger every week. Soon it will be eight total, then twelve.

Again, wow. So what’s the process like? How long does it take? Do people just bring stuff in with the vomit still fresh? (sorry, there’s really no nice word  for vomit, is there?)

Yeah pretty much. It’s like, if your kid vomits in your car seat in the city, there’s truly nothing you can do about it. And people – myself formerly included – are afraid to take their car seats apart because they’re scared they won’t get them back together properly.

As for the strollers, it takes us about four to seven hours to clean one stroller. All the tires need to be picked out – they get all wrapped with hair – that takes about an hour and a half. Then all the fabric needs to be washed (and sometimes rewashed), and just with taking it apart, putting it back together, etc. But everything we do is eco-friendly, all green products, a lot of Seventh Generation…we soak the fabric, everything gets hosed down…it’s the works.

Strollers in NYC get a lot of mileage. What are some things people can do to better maintain their strollers?

I know, we are just animals with our strollers, and again – I’m talking about myself too. My stroller is so dirty right now that I may just have to buy a new one because I don’t have time to clean it and it’s really bad advertising! But here are my top five:

  1. My number one would have to be: don’t hang anything from the handlebar, ever. That is the number one thing we’ve seen that breaks them down – that’s when they become loose and shaky. I know it’s easier said than done, and we all do it, but try to be mindful of that.
  2. Don’t go over the weight limit. If your little one is walking and your big kid wants to get in, it might be tempting…but don’t do it!
  3. No drinks in the stroller canopy – big stain risk.
  4. Keep your wheels well-oiled. Just get some WD-40 and spray them from time to time – it will keep them rolling a lot better.
  5. Try not to bounce the stroller up and down steps. I know it’s harder, but fold it up and carry it.

Do the ones you can do…I never used to do any of these things, and still don’t do some of them! But I am good about spraying my wheels.

Sort of an off-topic question, but I’ve just got to know. Do you take your stroller on the subway? How do you manage the stairs and bag and child?

Well, now I have a lightweight stroller, but I used to have a big, heavy double stroller, so I would just stand at the top and wait for someone to offer to help carry it. Seriously. Never once did I ever carry it myself. If someone asks, put your pride aside and just say yes. You can’t count on elevators, and you just can’t carry something that heavy yourself. So ask for help, or just hesitate. Someone will offer. And just say yes. Also, now that I have a lightweight stroller, it’s much easier.

Are you enjoying being NYC’s one-stop stroller spa?

Carolyn and I could never have expected this. Like I said, what’s happening now is a five-year plan. And almost every person I talk to says the same thing:
I always wished someone would do this!”

Stroller Spa is an official service and repair center for Bugaboo, Britax, Mountain Buggy, Phil & Teds, Per Perego, and Uppa Baby. They do stroller and car seat cleaning and repairs, and offer pickup and drop-off services. Thank you so much to Allison for all her great advice, and here’s to her ten-year plan happening in five!

Tell us – what condition is your stroller in now? We want the good, the bad, and the really bad! Also, have you used Stroller Spa? Leave them a review now!

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