Jackie Cohen-Antonio opens a kiddie store with a difference
John Magsaysay (The Philippine Star) - December 28, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines -Motherhood requires wearing a lot of hats. It encompasses love and care, not just for your kids, but for your whole family and for yourself, too. I think it’s very exhausting, but in a good way...in a rewarding way,” Jackie Cohen-Antonio mused about the topic that she has grown keen of by now.

At 37, she is mom to three-year-old Devon, six-month-old Natalya, and that one-year-old specialty baby store Chibi Momo at Century City Mall. Coming from the frenzied metropolitan life of a Manhattanite, to marriage and motherhood in uptown Manila, Jackie must have acquired quite the hat collection and the instincts that make raising her two kids the stuff of fluff and fantasies.

“When I got married, I moved from New York to Manila. It was just a big change,” Jackie shared of her wedding with real estate scion Marco Antonio. While leaving the gilded Empire State for Manila’s tropical high-rises may prove a bit overwhelming for Jackie, she quickly realized that the address shift was the first building block in what would be their family of four.

“We were married for quite some time before we had Devon, so we got to spend a lot of time with each other. And then, when Devon came along, everything was so new, and overwhelming, but exciting and thrilling,” she added. So, while Dad Marco was busy helping change the city’s skyline, Jackie went on to build a life from home.

“When I was pregnant, I was buying a lot of things online, buying things when I would travel, and some things that were not available here. So, I thought, if I was buying  it for myself, other people would want them, too. So I thought I’d put up a store and help everybody find these things,” Jackie recounted. Hence, her Chibi Momo store was born.

Taking on her first-born’s pet name (Chibi in Japanese loosely translates to “little rascal,” while Momo means “peach”), Jackie filled her four-corner retail space with everything she valued as a doting mom, and what she thought might catch her child’s fancy.

“A lot of the things are just fun items, ‘gift-y’ items. They’re not the gear that you would need as a first-time mom. That, I would say, would be bought from a different store. This is more of the cute blankets, adorable stuffed animals, little party dresses, and novel, whimsical things. Nothing too serious,” she added. And it is meant to catch her second-born, daughter Natalya Eva’s, fancy as well.

When her work life and family life start becoming a blur, it helps that her day office also doubles as a play place for her kids.

“I always try to take them to the store where they can play. In fact, a lot of kids come in, too, and their parents leave them there to play as well. I mean, it’s not daycare, but they sure can go ahead and enjoy,” Jackie shared. Where three-foot stuffed giraffes and pony sticks collide with walls decked with hot-air balloons and wooden planes, Chibi Momo offers a more inviting, imaginative atmosphere than your usual mega-franchise toy store.

“There are loads of baby things and toddler items that are out there, and I just wanted to edit and select things that I think would be good for the market. I didn’t want anything overly expensive, and I also try to offer things that aren’t available elsewhere here in the Philippines,” said Jackie.

Just like running her household, Jackie tends to run her shop by being conscious of their merchandises’ long-term impact on her pint-sized clientele.

“I tend to favor things that are a little more timeless, like wooden toys and books. Just fun stuff that is educational as well. Things that pepper and brighten up your life!” she related of her store’s merchandise. This, Jackie believes, makes the toys and fun stuff at Chibi Momo worthwhile as heirloom gifts, which can be passed on from child to child.



“I try to instill a rule to my kids that when we get something new, we give something away. I don’t want them to have too many things. It’s excessive,” Jackie shared, perhaps discouraging materialism at such an early age. In fact, Chibi Momo encourages the drop-off of used apparel, toys and books serves as a collection point to distribute these items to those who need them the most.

“Sharing is caring and having children donate at an early age is a great habit to develop,” Jackie added.

For her Chibi Momo store, Jackie also champions patriotism, by carrying specialty apparel and merchandise from homegrown labels and local designers. With Rosanna Ocampo and Maureen Disini’s little girl party dresses, TC Alvarez and Anna Alvarez’s tiny kaftans and sundresses, Juana Manahan’s line of little boy dress shirts and pajamas, and Didi and Peanut’s fun-filled throw pillows, blankets, and bowties, Chibi Momo seemingly fuels the “Buy Filipino” mindset early on.

The store’s noteworthy variety also celebrates a trait that Jackie, as a mom, wishes to instill in her kids. “Everybody is different, and I want to encourage that. Let everybody be their own individual,” she enthused.

“If my kids are artistic and want to go the creative route, I’m all for it. I just want them to be happy, receive good education, hopefully receive a lot of love, not just from us, but from everyone. Make the right decisions, do the right things, help out when they can, and do whatever makes them happy, whatever they want to do. Happiness is only defined by personal fulfillment. So, I guess, as long as they’re happy, then I’m happy.”

For Jackie, being a mother and a store owner takes a lot of effort, nurturing, caring, and learning.  “I would say it’s an equal mix. I’m bringing these things into the store thinking that other people would buy them because I would’ve bought them, too. It’s me as a mom, because I would buy it. And it’s me as a businesswoman because I think other people would buy it,” she admitted. And thus, Chibi Momo seems to mirror her and husband Marco’s parenting styles.

“I think we are pretty relaxed parents, but when push comes to shove, we’re disciplinarians. With us, we try to let them have access to knowledge. We want them to be well-rounded, not to be too sheltered. Ask questions, and learn about everything. Talk to everybody, and just be kids,” Jackie shared.

She added, “I think, these days, you have the ‘tiger parent,’ who just wants their kids to excel. But, I think, you also have to recognize the personality of your kids. Because if you’re like that and your kids can’t take it, it won’t work. I want to rule by love, I don’t want to rule by fear. Well, maybe a little bit of fear, healthy fear, like healthy disciplining, or a healthy dose of strictness.”

And while rearing a kid may seem like a noble, selfless duty for any mom, Jackie is quick to admit that she gets as much out of it as her kids, like a proactive, productive, give-and-take relationship. “Raising kids take a lot of patience, and you learn that you need to have your patience grow every day. Challenges are really more like balancing, balancing time for everything. I learn so much from my kids, I learn so much from this store. Every day, I’m picking up new things, and it’s great, because it keeps me evolving.”

And after only two years of motherhood and one year of wheeling out wonders at her specialty store, Jackie Cohen-Antonio may have gone through a lifetime of learning that could have only grown with experience. “First, it was a baby store. Now it’s a toddler store. So, I think, I’m going to expand the line to include bigger kids soon. We’ll see,” she enthused when prodded on her next step.

* * *

Chibi Momo offers personal shopping and registry services for all occasions. It is located on the second floor of the Century City Mall, Kalayaan Ave. corner Salamanca St., Makati City.

For inquiries, visit chibimomo.com.

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