By Jack Rubinger
It’s a cliché to say Don Hudson is a born salesman; he’s more of a consultant. As a matter of fact, he almost immediately offered me valuable insight into being the dad of a teenager – be an advisor, offer some ideas and suggestions – see what happens.
Coming from another dad with four kids ages 2 – 25, that insight was helpful as my son is about to enter high school.
“Teens are Know-it-alls,” Hudson explained. “We teach them everything from 0 to 13, so they have that knowledge base. They just lack the wisdom to put it all into place. We have to allow them the opportunity to fail.”
This type of thoughtfulness is reflected in just about everything Hudson sells at Seahorses, a kids/dads store that’s been on Hawthorne for about two years and growing wonderfully.
Hudson was a stay at home dad for five years and has conducted extensive research into dad’s buying and shopping preferences.
“If asked, most dads will say that they are buyers, not shoppers,” explained Hudson. “They go into a store with a specific item in mind, they give themselves a time limit, they get it and they leave.”
Hudson believes that dads are in fact shoppers given the right environment. They just need to feel comfortable shopping, especially when it comes to items to engage with their kids.
A tour of the store showcased a number of cool items you don’t typically see at mom-type kids stores: wooden cars and trucks, a play coffee machine and what Hudson calls a sibling dispute settlement device: a soft dueling stick that kids can whack each other with without hurting one another.
“Dads tend to bond with their kids in two basic ways – play and imitation. So many of the things we carry enable dads and kids to do these things such as matching dads and kids t-shirts and toys that a dad would likely want to play with.
“A dad would more likely want to play with a wooden coffee set rather than a plastic tea set, but the end result is the same: bonding time with the kiddo,” said Hudson.
Hudson finds merchandise at expos and toy shows where there is a lot to pick over. Whatever he chooses, it’s got to be innovative, durable, functional and fun.
Customers love the baby strollers/carriers by car rack manufacturers like Thule, and a collapsing shot glass that’s not necessarily for that “emergency shot of bourbon”. Rather it’s so adults can use it to allow their toddlers to get a better drink from a water fountain.
Another example that seemed unusual for a kids store, but not a kids/dads store was the array of fine shaving accessories – brushes, safety razors, old fashioned razor blades, oils and shaving cream.
“When I was at home with the kids, it was such a luxury to take an uninterrupted shower. Getting into the ritual of shaving gave me a boost when I needed it,” said Hudson.
Hudson’s deep dive into the world of dads was driven into a book he co-authored called, “Dadly Dollars,” which was written to educate businesses, advertisers and parents about an untapped consumer – dads.
In some ways, it is a political book that endeavors to create a greater understanding about the role of dads in families, which in turn strengthens the whole family unit.
What Hudson learned through working on this book and running Seahorses is that dads are capable of displaying a broad range of emotions and feelings about their families. They’re not limited to simply feeling just exuberant or angry.
Earlier in his life, among other lines of work, Hudson was a professional musician, built elevators, and served in the Navy.
“Advertisers can do more than just change tag lines,” he said. “It’s time to rethink the audience and see dads as multi-faceted human beings.
“For example, dads are typically very tactile. So to appeal to that sense is important. This shift benefits both moms and dads. Dads really aren’t marketed properly or at all.”
Meanwhile, Seahorses continues to evolve as a community center, performance stage and testing ground for cool and innovative products and services for the entire family, with a strong focus on dads.
Seahorses is at 4029 SE Hawthorne or online at seahorsespdx.com.