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Business nurtures new mothers

How did a woman who worked at Gracie Mansion, on the stages off Broadway and in the fashion district in Manhattan end up owning a maternity clothing store in Williamsville?

She decided to move back to Western New York and marry, take a job as a midwife’s assistant, and have kids.

“That was a great experience. We used a midwife for both pregnancies,” said Lou Ann Cane, who in May opened Bee Maternal, a European-style maternity and postpartum boutique at 5742 Main St., between Evans and Mill streets.

Before son John J., 9, and Sophie, 7, were born, Cane and her husband, John D., led an eclectic life in New York City.

The couple, both Grand Island natives, were acquainted through a mutual friend while in high school, but didn’t start dating until they were in New York. He was a commercial diver who specialized in underwater welding; she was a graduate of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in Manhattan who struggled to find work on Broadway. Instead, she took jobs working for the mayor and in public relations at a major fashion house.

Longing to be closer to family, and shaken by the horror of 9/11 – “John was in the water diving when the first tower collapsed,” she said. “They had to pull him out, do an emergency evacuation” – the Canes moved back home and married in 2003. The couple, who live in Kenmore, have since worked for Lou Ann’s parents in the family business, Abraxas Inc., which has refurbished the exteriors of the Hotel Lafayette, the Larkin Building and the Hub Lofts, among many others.

Still, the mother of two dreamed in recent years of owning a new mom-related business. Maternity dresses, pajamas, nursing accessories, anti-nausea Queasy Drops, soothing oils and postpartum wraps are among the wares at Bee Maternal. Pregnant women and new moms can try on clothes in “nicely sized dressing rooms, so nobody feels trapped,” Cane said. Birthing, cloth diapering, and soon breast-feeding, classes are offered. For times and rates (short classes are free), visit

It seems like almost everyone at the newspaper in their late 20s or early 30s either just had a baby or is pregnant. What’s going on?

It’s the same in the (local) TV industry, too. There is a baby boom. I think that people are feeling more confident with the economy, therefore more confident to have a child or two. I think everybody in Western New York can feel the upswing.

Talk about the Bee Maternal mission.

It’s self-care for women, and therefore, their families. If they can take care of themselves and they’re feeling good about themselves, they can more easily take care of their families, and that is something I think we as women all want to feel successful about. So we’re here to try to help that process.

What are the most popular items in the store?

Our dresses. I was open for two weeks and I had to reorder. And our nursing bras; women love them. Also our ‘Infinity scarves.’ They’re made by a local seamstress. It’s scarf that can turn into a cover-up for breast-feeding. It’s one less thing to have to carry with you because you can wear it.

How do you promote something this unique in a village that has a lot of other shops?

First of all, social media is the key to everything. Facebook has been huge for me. Twitter. Instagram. Just showing what we have, women love to see a visual. Seeing a picture of what someone that looks like them in the clothing has been huge for us.

Talk about the birthing classes.

We’re taking both a realistic approach to it and a natural approach. The most important part, we feel, is the postpartum part, which is usually glossed over in many other classes. We spend an entire class focusing on you and your baby postpartum, what it’s like to come home from the hospital, you and your baby, and what it’s like with all the hormonal changes and how you’re going to deal with it, what’s normal and what’s not normal. A lot of women feel lost, especially after their first baby.

If you put your baby down to fold some laundry and you start crying for a few minutes, that’s the blues. That’s pretty normal. You’re going to feel happy, you’re going to feel a little sad, a little weepy; that’s OK. If you feel like you can’t get up in the morning and brush your teeth and get dressed and make your coffee, or do whatever normal things you do, then we’re starting to talk about something that might be more serious. Not feeling like you can take care of your baby, not feeling adequate, those are things you need to start looking for, or, more importantly, your mom or your partner. Maybe they should talk to you to see if you’re feeling OK.

It can be tough if you have a colicky baby or if you were planning a natural birth and had to have a C-section. These things can put a lot of pressure on you and possibly lead you down the road to depression or anxiety. It is pretty common but it can be easily taken care of. Your doctor, your OB/GYN, there are people out there who can help you if you’re feeling like that.


On the Web: Lou Ann Cane talks more about her business, her involvement in the 43 North business competition, and a mom’s postpartum life at