‘Different is actually a pretty cool thing’
For Matt and Kiel Cavalli, inclusion and acceptance have become a way of life.
The same-sex couple who own and operate “ONEderChild,” a children’s gift, book and toy store in Solvang, strive to create a place of refuge for their children, as well as any other kid who may feel left out.
“If someone does feel different, they come in and have their sense of normalcy where in so much of other society different is bad,” Kiel told the News-Press. “Different is actually a pretty cool thing, so why not come in and be in a spot where you feel safe?
“For us being so different than what the norm is around here, we need to make sure that our kids – no matter what – know that being different is good,” he said.
As you walk into the store at 1576 Copenhagen Drive, you immediately enter “The Big Tent” circus-themed display. To your right is the store’s “Conscious Kid Library,” featuring children’s books about transgender and sexual orientation acceptance. As you continue through the store, many of the toys and gadgets are out on display, allowing the kids to try out the toy before taking it home.
“We try to really emphasize emotion, feeling and inclusion,” Matt said.
Tucked in the back of the store is the “Hazel Village,” which allows children to pick out a plush doll and decorate it in the clothing and attire of their choosing. Affixed on the concrete floor throughout the store are phrases such as “I Am Me,” or “I am Enough.”
“With us being a same-sex couple and having two adopted children, it put us in a spot to have a voice,” Matt said. “This is just who we are and it’s just our way of life. To us, it’s nothing new.”
They are parents to a 7-year-old, Emmy, and a 2-year-old, Cove. They are also involved with a foster program and have had custody of two 4-month-old babies.
“It’s been quite a journey,” Matt said.
Matt formerly worked for Pier 1 Imports and Kiel worked for Starbucks, and both realized they were ready to be their own bosses. A few years ago the couple purchased a consignment shop in Buellton and worked there for about two years, allowing them to get through the growing pains of operating a small business.
“We got out of clothing and got into what we’ve always envisioned,” said Matt.
ONEderCHILD is the first shop in the state to carry Cuddle + Kind dolls, which are made for boys and girls. With each purchase of a doll, 10 meals are provided to a starving child. They also carry children capes designed by Love Lane in Santa Barbara, clothing and hats by Mothersun and the Captain, and an exclusive candle line called “Chantry 1975,” among other products.
Matt takes care of all of the products the store carries, and makes a concerted effort to reach out and talk with the producers to make sure they align with the store’s vision.
Matt and Kiel have gotten some assistance in recent weeks, as Emmy set up her own pop-up shop inside the store. She created a stand from cardboard boxes and was pulling products from the back and having exclusive sales. Her parents were overjoyed at her enthusiasm, and said Emmy made quite a bit of money in the process.
“It was just amazing to see that kind of entrepreneurship being cultivated in her at 7, almost 8,” said Kiel. “I think we’re really lucky to be able to put her in a spot where she’s able to just be safe, explore and know that her papa’s will be here to protect her. It’s pretty rad.”
Like many visitors to Solvang, most customers are simply strolling through town and stumble upon ONEderChild not quite knowing what to expect. The reception from the customers and community has been nothing short of amazing so far, Matt said.
“Being here and having foot traffic – we’re not in the heart of Solvang but it’s still crazy,” said Matt. “It was the best move we could have ever made.”
The prior business at the location, called “One,” had been open for about eight years. The Cavallis wanted to come up with a name that would express who they are and their vision, while still paying homage to the previous tenants.
“That’s why we kept the ”one’ as part of our name,” Kiel said. “And I think that we have pretty wonderful kids and I think that’s a fun play on words. For us, the whole reason we got into this is to express equality.”
The store’s motto is “One life, One love, One community.”
“I think that’s really what our message is,” said Kiel. “No matter where you’re coming from, who you are – everybody is welcome.”
The couple said they had their “a-ha” early last month, when an older man came in to read a book to his godson. Kiel watched anxiously to see how the man would react when he realized the book, titled “The Knight and the Price,” was a tale of two boys falling in love.
“To see that there might be some hesitation, and to see him read it and to come to the conclusion of ”it doesn’t matter who you love, love is love,’ was amazing,” said Kiel.
The store will hold a grand opening event Saturday, with a ribbon-cutting scheduled for 9:30 a.m. A 10 percent discount will be offered for the entire store from 10 a.m. to noon. A free bag will be given to the first 20 customers who enter the store and face painting will be available for children. Refreshments will be offered in the form of drinks from Los Olivos Lemons and doughnuts from God’s Country Provisions.
The shop is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Monday. For more information, visit www.onederchild.com.