SOUTH LOOP — The past five years have been a whirlwind for Keewa Nurullah, so the entrepreneur behind the South Loop kids boutique Kido is quietly reflecting as she celebrates her business anniversary and looks to the future.
Kido, 1137 S. Delano Ct., marks five years in business this week. The shop that sells clothes, toys, books and more for babies, toddlers and kids has gained a loyal following by centering on children of color, children with disabilities and non-traditional families.
The shop has drawn parents and families for meetups, workshops, pop-ups, music shows and even hair braiding events. In recent years, Nurullah and Kido also have organized major community events, like a pro-choice family march after Roe v. Wade was struck down and collaborating with queer dance party Slo ‘Mo to host the Queer Fam Pride Jam.
Nurullah said producing events can be difficult, but the outpouring of love and support from customers keeps her going. Now, as she looks to the next five years, she hopes to expand Kido’s footprint and impact across the country — and the world.
“My biggest fantasy is to have a Kido in every region of the country. One on the west coast, one in New York. Maybe one in the south,” Nurullah said.
Nurullah’s family history as business owners traces back to the Tulsa, Oklahoma massacre in 1921.
Nurullah’s great-grandfather, Simeon L. Neal Sr., fled Tulsa with his family after the riot and settled on the South Side. Neal, a tailor, set up his own shop on 63rd Street, Nurullah told Block Club in 2020.
Nurullah’s grandfather learned the trade and also began working as a tailor. At one point, both men had separate businesses set up on the South Side, Nurullah said.
Becoming a fourth-generation entrepreneur, Nurullah and husband Douglas Freitag opened the South Loop store in 2018.
“I feel very determined to keep my family tradition alive regardless of what’s going on, because I am aware that for African Americans it’s very rare to have legacies kind of carried down through generations. And a lot of people don’t even know their family history like that,” Nurullah told Block Club.
Community building is essential to Kido’s mission, Nurullah said.
One of the reasons Nurullah opened Kido was to create space for Black and Brown kids, something she hadn’t seen much of at other children’s shops. She believes that focus has been the key to her success.
It’s also allowed her to extend grace when the occasion calls for it.
Growing up on the South Side, Nurullah remembers how what it feels like to be a kid in a city increasingly hostile to those from certain neighborhoods. Recently, three teens came into the store to look around, swiping a pair of scooters stationed near the entrance, Nurullah said.
“On the way out, they were indulging me with conversations, calling me ‘Auntie’ or whatever. Then they grabbed the scooters and went right out the door. They were kind of by Roosevelt Road where they had gotten close enough for me to still see them and hadn’t just rode off into the sunset. I’m like, come on, [telling them] ‘We’re a black-owned business,'” recalled Nurullah.
A few minutes after that, the teens returned the scooters. She believes that by engaging them respectfully, she was able to thwart the shoplifting attempt.
“They brought them back and put them very carefully in the spots where they were. There was something about that gesture on its own … it’s like, ‘OK, you all know. You’re not just out here in these streets.’ That [act] was tied to something,” Nurullah said.
The Roosevelt Collection stores have allowed teens to meet at the complex. But Nurullah said there’s a disconnect happening as the some of the city’s youth face mental health issues and “all kinds of things we didn’t have to deal with at their age.” As book bans and drag show bans make headlines, organizing events where kids and teens feel seen and part of something is important, Nurullah said.
At Queer Fam Pride Jam, families enjoyed singalongs, skateboarding and house music dance lessons while patronizing local businesses. Though the event had to be postponed this year due to tragedy, the extra time allowed Nurullah and Slo ‘Mo’s Kristen Kaza to add more activities.
“It was something that I never dealt with in the whole history of the brand and my event producing experience with Kido and everything,” Nurullah said. “So when we were able to finally do it Labor Day weekend, it just made it that much more gratifying because we really earned it. It was a very hot day, so the families who came despite the heat made it that much more valuable. The mayor came, we had everything that was set up to happen before and more. There were so many just heartwarming moments.”
Another of Nurullah’s proudest moments was the Bronzeville pro-choice march, collaborating with the Chicago Abortion Fund to protest the Supreme Court decision.
Scores of families showed up to march down King Drive last July, many of them from the South Side. That, too, was intentional as people of color are now more vulnerable in states that enacting trigger laws once the decision was handed down, Nurullah told Block Club in an interview prior to the event.
Nearing the shop’s anniversary, Nurullah also held a Halloween party last week at The Promontory in Hyde Park, drawing 500 families to dance, trick or treat and watch the Chicago Bucket Boys play.
Nurullah is always anxious when it comes to planning events, especially when it comes to attendance. But the former theater major hasn’t had a bad turnout yet.
“As a parent, oftentimes you’d have to tag team to do social things. A lot of people are strapped when it comes to childcare, so [we try to host] as many things that we can that the whole family can go to and feel good about and feel like they actually got some good social time and like, ‘Oh, we got to do these things for the kids,'” Nurullah said.
Nurullah has her sights set even bigger for Kido. This year, the shop gained two major retailers for their “Chicago” puzzles. Nurullah, who started Kido by developing her own line of eco-friendly kids clothes with positive messages, said that success is prompting her to focus more on developing a product line.
“If you ask someone on the street today, what the biggest Black-owned toy company is in the country, they wouldn’t have an answer for you,” Nurullah said. “A lot of singular products have had some success but in terms of a whole company? It doesn’t exist right now. There’s Little Tykes, there’s Fisher Price and Disney, but I would love if Kido were on that list.”
Kido is open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon-6 p.m. Sundays as part of the Roosevelt Collection Shops.
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