Children's clothing store to open soon in Castlegar

Lawrence Sithembu is owner and operator the new Kootenai Clothing children
Lawrence Sithembu is owner and operator the new Kootenai Clothing children's clothing store in Castlegar which will be opening in December by Kootenay Market.
— image credit: Craig Lindsay

When it comes to buying children's clothing in Castlegar, parents don't have a lot of choice. That's going to change soon with the opening of Kootenai Children, which is expected to open in early December, just in time for Christmas.

"I struggled to get clothes for my kids here," said owner/operator Lawrence Sithembu. "I found myself having to go to places like Kelowna or even across the border to get children's clothes - which I don't like. I thought there must be other parents here who are going through the same thing as me and would like to see a good children's store that is supplying good quality children's clothes. So I thought, let's open it."

Sithembu is busy applying a few coats of paint and getting the counters ready for the opening, which he expects will be the December 7/8 weekend.

Shoppers can expect to see clothes from all over the world at Kootenai Children.

"Our supplies come from South Africa, Holland, the United States, and Montreal," he said. "I'm looking for suppliers from around here. I'm just researching that. I'm quite open for local designers to supply us."

Kootenai Children is targeted for kids from birth up to 16 years-old.

"We'll have all kinds of clothes," said Sithembu. "Boys, girls, toddlers, infants. We won't have shoes. I'm just focusing on clothing."

Sithembu and his family came to Canada from Johannesburg, South Africa about 13 months ago.

"We came out here just to change the work environment," he said. "To experience living in another country. We were looking for opportunities in terms of business as well as education for us and our kids. We never thought we'd end up in Castlegar."

Sithembu's wife, who is a local doctor, had several job offers but the family eventually decided on Castlegar.

"There were so many options in so many cities that had positions for her," he said. "I was going to come with her and look for business opportunities when we settled. So we ended up here in the Kootenays, which is great."

The Sithembus came out here for a recruiting visit and after touring the area became hooked.

"My wife's colleagues took us around and we really liked it," he said. "It was winter and it was cold. We went up Slocan and got the gist of the area. We liked it. On our way home we decided, 'hey, let's give it a try!' We loved the scenery but didn't know what the people would be like. People have been great so far. So we thought we'd go into business here."

Sithembu has quite a unique background. He has two degrees and is a year away from his law degree. He spent 13 years in the South African film industry as a writer and director. Before that he was in a couple of successful businesses.

"I've travelled all over the world," he said. "I've been to almost every continent."

His degrees are in Organizational Psychology and Communications.

"After that I worked for KLA doing market research," he said. "I got bored and switched to the film industry. It was more flexible and had more travelling. I never looked back."

About five years ago he set up a men's clothing company in South African called Gemini Clothing.

"We had shirts, jeans, ties for men," said Sithembu. "I enjoyed it. It was my first experience owning a business. I sold clothes from throughout the world. It was quite successful. We closed it down just before we came here. Gemini Clothing was an extension of myself. I love clothes. I sold clothes that I like to wear myself and it became very successful."

As a caring father of two children, eight and five years-old, children's clothing seemed like the logical next step.





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