- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 14, 2005

John Ryder is like a kid in a toy store. The owner of Tree Top Kids, a children’s boutique with toys, books and clothing, exudes a childlike enthusiasm when he talks about expanding his business.

The Washington-based company, which has locations in the District and McLean, is opening a store in Fairfax Oct. 15. The stores stock more than 25,000 products, and about 90 percent of them are not carried by mass merchandisers.

The products include toys such as Groovy Girls and Bruder Trucks and clothing from Le Top and Lilly Pulitzer.

“This is not a fourth-quarter company,” Mr. Ryder said, referring to the traditional busy time for most retailers. “Sales are all year round.”

Tree Top Kids was established in 1978 as a boutique toy store. The book and clothing departments were added in 1993 and 1997, respectively.

Mr. Ryder, former president and chief executive of Metro Foods, bought the company in October 2003. He has no plans of changing the theme or style of the stores.

“When I was first introduced to this retailer, I was immediately drawn to it,” Mr. Ryder said. “It is a model that works. The design, the integration of the three main product lines and the synergy that exists in the stores clearly equals success.”

Mr. Ryder plans to expand the company even more in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Open book

Two area Waldenbooks locations have been converted to Borders Express stores as part of a company branding strategy.

Borders Express, a smaller version of the Borders stores, opened in Dulles Town Center and Fair Oaks Mall on Aug. 6. A third Waldenbooks location in Springfield Mall will be converted to Borders Express in November. The miniature Borders stores also carry stationery, compact discs and digital video discs.

Borders Group converted 37 Waldenbooks stores to Borders Express last year. The company plans to expand the conversion program to about 75 to 100 additional stores nationwide this year.

“By converting some of the Waldenbooks, we are better leveraging the Borders brand,” said Holley Stein, a Borders Group spokeswoman.

Those pearly whites

Forget about $30 dental whitening strips. A teeth-whitening spa opened in Tysons Galleria earlier this month.

For $600, customers can get their choppers to look as good as new during an hourlong procedure at BriteSmile. During the treatment, a whitening gel is applied to the teeth and is activated with a special blue light for 20 minutes. That procedure is repeated twice more.

The 1,750-square-foot spa has eight private “whitening pods” that feature ergonomically designed Italian leather chaises and 17-inch plasma-screen televisions. The spa has nine employees, including three dentists.

Retail rummage

• Modell’s Sporting Goods opened its fifth location in Virginia last week in Sterling. The 16,000-square-foot store has more than 50 employees. Other locations include Fairfax, Manassas, Reston and Springfield.

• Donna De Marco can be reached at 202/636-4884. Retail & Hospitality runs every other Monday.

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