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Bugaboos Losing Out to UPPAbaby and City Mini in Brooklyn Stroller War

By Amy Zimmer | March 19, 2013 7:29am | Updated on March 19, 2013 7:39am

PARK SLOPE — Bugaboo ushered in a new era of tricked-out wheels for urban infants, but the pricey stroller no longer reigns supreme in some of the city’s most kid-centric neighborhoods.

UPPAbaby strollers have been on an upswing, edging into the No. 1 most popular spot previously held by Bugaboo, especially in the spawning grounds of many Brooklyn neighborhoods, store owners reported. And Baby Jogger’s City Mini is running close behind, with its popular one-handed fold.

But despite the array of options constantly coming to the market to suit families, whether they live in elevator buildings or the top floor of a walk-up, the decision on what stroller to get is rarely easy.

“In a city like New York, the stroller can be your ‘car.’ It’s basically, an extension of your life for that time period,” said Ali Wing, founder and CEO of Giggle, which has shops in SoHo, the Upper East Side and Upper West Side.

Men and women sometimes want different features for their kids’ rides.

“To some women, the stroller is almost a fashion accessory, which is more about the brand, color and fabric choices,” she noted. “New Yorkers are sophisticated, so there are plenty of men who think similarly, but most men tend to care more about a stroller’s utility and performance.”

Parents take their time testing out strollers — often visiting the shop three or four times before deciding, said Brigitte Prat, owner of LuLu’s for Baby in Park Slope.

“Besides giving birth and becoming parents, making the decision of which stroller to purchase is probably the No. 1 most stressful decision,” she said. “I have one couple who recently came in twice. The woman came in with her mom and the next week the dad came in with his mother. I’m sure I’ll see them this week.”

What do the babies think?

“To be honest, a child is going to be comfortable in a range of strollers,” Kelsey Champlin, assistant manager of the Upper West Side’s Albee Baby, said. “It’s if you’re comfortable.”

Battle for “It” stroller of the moment: Bugaboo v. UPPAbaby

For trendy parents looking for a smooth ride on the city’s rugged sidewalks the debate often comes down to the Bugaboo Chameleon ($979) versus the UPPAbaby Vista ($729) or the more lightweight Bugaboo Bee ($699) versus the UPPAbaby Cruz ($459).

“When I first opened four years ago, it was all about the Bugaboo Chameleon. For our neighborhood it has changed a lot,” said Prat of Park Slope's LuLu’s for Baby. 

“[UPPAbaby] has good wheels for our neighborhood. Strolling where the sidewalks are uneven or cracked and going over that with a one-hand push is really helpful,” Prat said.

The price, good customer service and the ability to add a second seat to the Vista — enhancing its potential lifespan for a growing family — also helped push UPPAbaby over the edge as did its large basket — a feature that “moms die for,” Prat noted.

Bugaboo —  which recently recalled more than 50,000 Chameleon and Donkey stroller carry handles — still has its celebrity adherents (Gwyneth Paltrow gifted a Bugaboo to Beyoncé when Blue Ivy was born) and legions of design-conscious parents.

Meredith Cappelleti, 28, who received a Bugaboo Chameleon for her 2-month-old son, Luca, as a gift, said she wouldn’t use it if she had a car or didn’t live in an elevator building. But she said it was great for walking.

“I like how smooth it is,” she said. “When I see mud, I’m like, 'no problem.'"

For families in walk-ups

Walking up and down stairs with a stroller is not an easy feat for many parents, which is why the quick one-handed fold of the City Mini ($249) has gained in popularity.

While many parents in Williamsburg are going for the UPPAbaby Cruz and Bugaboo Bee, “not everyone wants to spend $500 or $600 on a stroller,” said Dave Jacobs of that neighborhood's Mini Jake. “Then the Baby Jogger becomes a good option.”

“It has the most amazing one-hand closure,” Prat said. “When I’ve demonstrated, I’ve had people say, ‘I blinked. I didn’t see it. Can you do it again?'"

Niki Russ Federman, a Park Sloper who has a City Mini and an UPPABaby Vista (which she found on sale the day after buying the Mini) preferred the UPPAbaby for running errands but said the City Mini was better, for instance, when taking her 17-month-old daughter to a dance class four flights upstairs.

The quick fold, however, was no help when Jen Kattamis, 35, needs to wheel 14-month-old Jacob up one flight of stairs to the parlor-floor apartment in a brownstone if he dozes off in the stroller.

“That part is not fun because you have to drag it up backwards when the kid is asleep,” she said.

For gear-heads looking for high-tech strollers

The Zen CMYK or Monochrome (both $799) has been a big seller at Giggle for its “hassle free” transportation/storage and innovative solar lighting system.

“It boasts a cutting-edge fold design that makes it super slim for stashing in tight spaces and freestanding when folded flat,” Giggle’s Wing said. “It also sports a first-of-its-kind solar lighting system that allows you to shine a light beam or flash hazards for added safety.”

The Orbit Baby ($940) and its less pricier cousin JJ Cole Broadway ($449) appeal to parents who like the ability to snap on a car seat and rotate it 360 degrees.

“I can take him to a restaurant and swivel him around to watch him,” said Carlie Bifaro, 28, mom to 3-month-old, Rocco, who got the JJ Cole from a bunch of her girlfriends who chipped in and bought it from her baby registry.

For families with twins or a toddler and an infant:

Most families with twins don’t want a side-by-side stroller, Albee Baby’s Champlin said, noting that Baby Jogger’s City Select ($669) tandem stroller was the best seller since it was the only tandem they carried where both seats accommodated kids of the same weight rather than a bigger child and a smaller one.

“If you have twins and don’t want to do side-by-side,” she said, “It’s your only option. If you do like side-by-side, the City Mini Double GT [$579] is good. Like the City Mini, it has a quick fold. You have to use two hands instead of one, but if you have two kids running around you don’t have a lot of time to fold a stroller.”

Jennifer Ridgway, 35, wheeling around her 6-month-old twins, Elwin and Harper, along the stroller-heavy stretch of Park Slope’s Seventh Avenue in a Contours Option Tandem ($219) on a recent Saturday afternoon, said they didn’t want a side-by-side stroller.

“Honestly, we find them rude,” she said.

Similar to the City Select, the Contours has “stadium seating,” so the child in the back seat, when facing out, is raised above the other seat and has a view, which Ridgway liked.

When the children get older and can sit up, the Kinderwagon [$300] appeals to many parents of twins, said Jacobs, of Mini Jake. “It’s a tandem stroller that folds like a Maclaren,” he explained of the lightweight double-seater that also has stadium seating.

The other double stroller that’s doing well, he said, was the Mountain Buggy Duet ($599), which has recessed wheels under the frame, making its 25-inch width more narrow than many single strollers.

“For families with infant and toddler it’s all about the Phil and Ted’s [$499/$650 with double kit],” said Prat of LuLu’s. “The footprint is so petite. It is so much lighter and really easy to navigate in our neighborhood, so you can go into a teeny boutique and not take up the whole store.”

For riding the subways

When taking the train, you're in the realm of lightweight umbrella strollers — but most can't be used until children are a year or so old.

The UPPAbaby G-Lite ($129.99), which has a nice sun shade and cup holder, and the Maclaren Volo ($130), which is more compact, tend to be popular at Mini Jake, Jacobs noted.

“After the baby is a year old, all parents realize they have a great stroller but they didn’t need all that stuff,” Prat said, “and then they come in for your classic Maclaren umbrella stroller.”