'Feeling fulfilled': Deja Vu Tots under new ownership
The second hand children’s store, Deja Vu Tots, has gotten a makeover since Cera Phalo purchased the business on the first day of 2023.
DICKINSON — Deja Vu Tots, a second hand children’s store, has gotten a makeover recently since Cera Phalo purchased the business on the first day of 2023. Customers will find that while the layout of the store has changed, Phalo is still providing the same services customers love, with plans to expand.
She has rearranged and reorganized to give customers a fresh view of the store’s merchandise.
“I just want people to be comfortable here,” she said. “I want to keep it clutter free. I like people to be able to maneuver easily and not feel overwhelmed.”
The store, which is located in St. Joe’s Plaza, takes donated clothing, toys, books and gear that are in good condition for resale. Those who drop off items then receive in-store credit.
“It’s not a thrift store, it’s everyone helping each other out,” Phalo said. “It’s unique. Everyone is bringing their stuff in, helping another family out and I like that.”
The store does not accept items that are overused, have rips, stains or are soiled. Phalo said a good rule of thumb is that customers bring in items they would put their own children in.
She posts new items to Deja Vu Tots on their Facebook page as she processes them. Customers can put a hold on an item by commenting on the post. If the items aren’t picked up, others have the chance to purchase them.
Phalo is a Marathon, N.Y. native who moved to Dickinson when she was in high school. She served in the Army for five years before returning to Dickinson where she is raising two daughters.
“It’s just a great community, honestly, everyone is so helpful and giving,” Phalo said. “You just don’t see communities like this, usually. I’ve been all over the world and I’ll tell you, this is probably the nicest one I’ve been to. People are friendly.”
She started working at Deja Vu Tots nearly two years ago when her mom shopped at the store and noticed they were hiring.
“I had just got out of the military,” Phalo said. “I was kind of looking for work while I was going to school. I was getting my bachelor's degree in criminal justice and she came to the store and found out they were hiring.”
She finished her associates degree and has taken a break from education while she focuses on her daughters and her new business.
“It just feels good,” Phalo said. “You know, I'm 27 years old and I have a business now. I feel pretty fulfilled.”
Anastasia Krehlik opened the business in 2017. She sold the store to Phalo because she moved out of state. She said it has been bittersweet because she loved the business she built, but also knows she left it in good hands.
“I feel safe to leave my baby with her because I know she's a hard worker, and she will take care of the store as well as I would,” Krehlik said. “I highly miss my community and I wish everybody well.”
She has been staying in touch with the Dickinson community, who she describes as part of her family. She plans to continue working with her former customers and will soon be providing a mystery box shopping experience online.
Phalo said she dreamed of owning a business, but wasn’t always sure what it would be.
“Then once I started to work for Anastasia, I just kind of fell in love with this job,” Phalo said. “I love working for the community, you know, providing everyone the essentials they need. And I love the idea behind the store. Anastasia opened the store because she wanted to help the community.”
Phalo said the store has something for anyone shopping for kids. She also plans to sell adult clothes soon and offer consignment items in the future.
“I'm still building up my little project right now,” Phalo said. “It's great, it's helping everyone.”
The store is open Mondays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.