DANVERS — Little feet will soon return to the former stomping ground of Ideal Baby Shoe Co. in Danvers.

Starting April 3, Ideal Baby Steps’ daycare program for infants and toddlers will open its doors at 20 Locust St. — the same address where Mrs. Adra Day ran her renowned baby shoe company nearly a century before.

“Mrs. Day geared her whole life to infants and toddlers, and now we are too,” said Susan Marshall, who owns the daycare with her daughter Amanda Marshall.

Day purchased a 10 footer garden shed with her husband in 1905 that became the first shop of her Ideal Baby Shoe Co. The business expanded and moved to a newly remodeled factory at 20 Locust St. in 1926, according to the Danvers Historical Society.

Its popularity continued to grow throughout the first half of the 20th century, mainly thanks to Day’s revolutionary idea to mold shoes for a baby’s left and right foot to help them learn to walk, rather than stick to the straight-toed shoes that had been the fashion for babies up until that point.

The Historical Society found that babies like Queen Elizabeth II, the children of Queen Juliana of Holland and President Woodrow Wilson’s first grandchild all wore Mrs. Day’s shoes. As did the first set of quintuplets who were known to survive infancy, since Mrs. Day sent five tiny shoes to the Dionne family in Canada in 1934 to celebrate their birth.

Ideal Baby Shoe would expand a few more times until it shut down in the 1990s. The former factory on Locust Street has since been built out and modernized by Marshall’s family, who owns the building. But not all of the site’s history is lost.

The Marshall’s will display half a dozen pairs of Mrs. Day’s leather baby shoes in shadow boxes at the daycare. They’ve also honored her legacy by naming their own business after hers — a decision they called “a no-brainer.”

“This is a mother and daughter business, and Mrs. Day started out with just her and a few other women,” Amanda Marshall said. “We’re finding these little similarities, and so it’s cool to keep that history a memory.”

Amanda Marshall lives in Beverly and has worked with kids since she started babysitting as a teenager. She’s a certified infant and toddler director, and is excited to see her dream of owning a daycare finally come true.

“I’m definitely excited that we have this opportunity to work together,” she said. “It’s really special that this is what we’re both super passionate about.”

She will run the toddler room for children ages 15 months to 2.9 years, while her mother will be in charge of the infant room for babies ages 3 to 15 months.

Susan Marshall is a Marblehead resident who built a career on taking care of adults and children with disabilities, and opened her own at-home day care for young children during the pandemic.

“My husband was like, ‘Are you crazy? You’re at an age that you can retire.’ But this is my second life,” Susan Marshall said. “Playing with babies all day? That sounds good.”

The two classrooms are bright, large and have colorful activities to keep kids stimulated throughout the day. The Marshalls will have themed-curriculums that will switch out each month, and there is also a fenced-in grass yard at the back of the building that will become a school-run garden with plants that are allergy friendly.

“We want them to constantly have the same routine that’s somewhat structured, but when it comes down to it, they’re babies. They’re not going to follow a schedule,” Susan Marshall said. “We’re going to do what they want to do.”

Ideal Baby Steps will have room for about nine children at first. But the Marshalls hope to bring in more help to expand that number as they settle in.

They also want parents to feel welcome to come in and play with their child or even nurse them during the day. and if they want to bring them to get lunch at Betty Ann’s Sandwich Shop next door, that’s fine too, Susan Marshall said.

“We want this to be their second home,” she said.

Like it did for Mrs. Day, the space will become a second home for them, too.

“You’ve got to do what you love,” Amanda Marshall added. “This is what we love.”

Contact Caroline Enos at CEnos@northofboston.com and follow her on Twitter @CarolineEnos.

Trending Video

Recommended for you