When baby is worth a million bucks

A wide range of luxury vehicles featuring limited edition interiors, all-wheel independent suspension systems and peek-a-boo windows are on display at "Stroller Park" in Bel Bambini, a Costa Mesa baby boutique.

Inside the store, more than 20 strollers with a multitude of functions surround an artificial grass lot, allowing parents to test out the buggies on different terrains.

Bel Bambini, including the West Hollywood flagship store, which is frequented by celebrity moms with paparazzi in tow, is the brainchild of owner Kristina Lin, of Irvine.

"I'm an Orange County girl," said Lin, who believes living in area more than makes up for the daily commute to Los Angeles. "Our whole family is here and it's kid-friendly. It's worth it."

Lin decided to open Bel Bambini, or "Beautiful Baby," when she was pregnant with twins and having a hard time finding nursery items that were both functional and stylish, she said.

"You could find things at Target and Babies R Us and luxury items in boutiques but not all under the same roof," Lin said. "I saw a void in the market."

Today, employees are required to sign confidentiality agreements to protect the identities of celebrities like Jessica Alba, Halle Berry and the Kardashian sisters, who have been spotted shopping at the store.

Adele was seen leaving the West Hollywood shop surrounded by paparazzi earlier this year, and an episode of "The Real Housewives of Orange County" was recently shot at the Costa Mesa location, on Newport Boulevard.


Sister store

Lin opened the Costa Mesa store in 2011 after numerous requests by clients and fans requesting an Orange County location and handed over the managerial reins to her sister Loann Tran, who serves as general manager.

"It's personally rewarding for me to help somebody during such a beautiful part of their lives," said Tran, of Tustin Ranch. "We become part of the families … like aunties."

The 10,000-square-foot location includes nearly a dozen mini-nursery vignettes complete with different themes likely to appeal to the modern, traditional, gender-neutral, minimalist or eco-friendly parent.

"Sometimes our customers will come in and say, 'I want it exactly like this,'" Bel Bambini sales manager Sarah Getchell said, pointing to the walls and floors of the nautically themed nursery.


Floor plan

Everything from the chandeliers to the rugs in the vignettes are available for sale. Bel Bambini prides itself as being a one-stop shop for moms and moms-to-be who can find everything from pacifiers to cribs to Versace baby clothes.

Next to the indoor café seating area is "High Chair Row" where dozens of the newest chairs in design and function are lined up for display.

The store's second floor houses luxury baby clothes from the fashion houses of Dior, Chloe and Fendi, including a $478 ecru gown by Junior Gaultier.

The shop also carries an extensive selection of eco-friendly and organic cotton baby clothes and has a separate shoe department.

Parents might find items they never knew even existed like Jacadi's alcohol-free baby perfume line, intended to be applied sparingly on babies' skin or clothes.

"If you see it online, we usually have it," Getchell said.


Family business

Lin and Tran say the posh surroundings of Bel Bambini are reminiscent of their lives in Vietnam before they had to escape and become refugees.

"We had nannies, chauffeurs and pretty dresses imported from the U.S. and Europe, and then we had to drop all of that move here," Tran said. "We were so spoiled then."

The sisters, along with their parents, four other siblings and nearly 40 extended family members, were able to leave Vietnam a few weeks before the fall of Saigon in 1975, when Lin's father, a high-ranking military officer got word the communists were approaching the city.

The entire family boarded a B-52 bomber and stopped in Guam before temporarily settling at Camp Pendleton.

"We were very fortunate in that way," Lin said. "We didn't even know until we came to the states and witnessed what was going on over there."

They remained at Camp Pendleton for an extended period because their grandfather, the family patriarch, refused to let the group get separated, and

remained refugees until the state of Washington eventually sponsored the nearly 50-member family, Tran said.

The transition was difficult but Lin, Tran and their four siblings attended college and eventually moved back to Southern California.

"We didn't know how to do anything," Tran said. "There was a language barrier and it was difficult."

Despite hurdles, today there is a civil engineer, attorney, academic counselor and two businesswomen in the family, Tran said.

Bel Bambini is looking to expand, scoping out locations in SoHo in New York and Union Square in San Francisco.

Bel Bambini is at 1800 Newport Blvd., near Triangle Square. For more information visit http://www.bel-bambini.com.


Twitter: @TheDailyPilot

Loann Tran's Top 5:

1.) Comotomo Natural-feel baby bottle: $15.

2.) Stokke MyCarrier baby carrier: $249.

3.) Roberto Cavalli animal print diaper bag: *Call for pricing.

4.) Ubbi stainless steal diaper pail: $79.

5.) Dutailier Classico soft leather recliner: $2,100.

Bel Bambini's Top 5 Stroller Picks

1.) For the active mom:

Baby Jogger's Summit X3: $429


•One handle pull that folds the stroller in one swoop

•Hand brakes

•All-wheel independent suspension system

2.) The "all inclusive" stroller:

Bugaboo Chameleon: $979 including accessories


•Good for first-time moms

•Turns with one hand

•Good for different terrains

3.) Geared toward mobility:

UPPAbaby Cruz: $459


•Good for parents who are in and out of the car a lot.

•Lightweight and good for petite moms.

•Extendable SPF50+ sunshade

4.) The "Rolls Royce" of strollers:

Stokke Explory: $1,350


•Built with eco-friendly materials

•Five seating positions

•Ergonomic design including adjustable footrest

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