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Amid ‘tough environment,’ parenting business Isis to close

Kathleen Gallagher (right) fed her daughter, Anna, as she sat beside Emily Pace and her son, Thomas in Arlington. Gallagher is upset that Isis is closing. Pace also attended classes at Isis.

Jessica Rinaldi For The Boston Globe

Kathleen Gallagher (right) fed her daughter, Anna, as she sat beside Emily Pace and her son, Thomas in Arlington. Gallagher is upset that Isis is closing. Pace also attended classes at Isis.

Isis, the upscale maternity and early parenting business for expectant mothers with classes on prenatal education, breastfeeding and sleep support, abruptly announced Tuesday night it is closing all of its locations in Greater Boston, as well as Atlanta and Dallas.

“We are doing our very best — putting in 16 and 17 hour days to make sure we have a plan for as many clients as possible so their class experience doesn’t end even if it doesn’t take place [at an Isis center],” said Isis chief executive Heather Coughlin on Wednesday. “This is a tough environment for independent retailers. It’s no mystery. There are a lot of competitive forces – there’s diapers.com and Amazon.com.”

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“I’ve been crying since last night. Isis is where I met all my friends,” Dawn Murray, a mother of two from Hingham, said of the company’s closure. “It’s the biggest support system for pregnant women and new moms.”

Details about why it is closing were unclear. But just this month Isis had announced a new partnership with MetroWest Medical Center. Then, with no warning, the business posted a message on its Facebook page Tuesday saying:

“With heavy hearts, we announce the extremely sad news that Isis Parenting must close. Effective immediately, no classes or phone consults will take place. We are taking steps to communicate with all affected class participants over the coming days and we thank the Isis community in advance for your patience and understanding during this very difficult time.

“For a short time, our centers will be open with limited hours. We’ll keep you updated here on facebook and on our website and hope you will come visit our centers to say goodbye. Clients with questions may contact clientcare@isisparenting.zendesk.com.”

Nancy Holtzman, the vice president of clinical content and e-learning at Isis Parenting, sent out her own message on Twitter Tuesday night: “Thank you all for you lovely words. They are moving me beyond tears. It is a sad, sad evening here.”

Isis was founded as Isis Maternity back in 2003 in a small Brookline space to, according to its own website, “respond to the unique needs of expecting parents, babies, toddlers and new families.” It said its vision was “to be the nation’s most trusted pregnancy and early parenting destination.”

In 2005, the company was named Rookie of the Year by the Retailers Association of Massachusetts and it quickly became a preferred provider of services for the most prominent local hospitals, including Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Massachusetts General, Brigham and Women’s, South Shore Hospital, North Shore Medical Center and Tufts Medical Center. It expanded to locations in Arlington, Boston, Needham and Hanover, as well as multiple locations in Dallas and Atlanta.

In a 2006 Globe story, the founders of Isis, Stephen Schrodel and Jo McChesney, said they were particularly interested in the growing number of older women having babies. “They say, `Well, I’m really going to do it right,’ “ McChesney said at the time. “I’ve been waiting all my life to do this.’”

In addition to offering standard prenatal classes, Isis offered yoga and belly dancing workshops and massages.

Beith Teitell can be reached at bteitell@globe.com. Follow her at @BethTeitell. Doug Most contributed to this article, he can be reached at dmost@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Globedougmost.
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