When I was a kid, my parents were self employed. They ran a retail business and dad traveled a lot, picking up merchandise to sell in the store. My siblings and I took turns traveling with him on those business trips. I loved going with him; but sometimes, the waiting was long and boring.
Some of the places we would go to had some toys, puzzles and books for kids. You know, I always wondered whether they had caught someone on the way to the dump and said,
“I’ll take those worn out and broken toys you were going to throw away; I’ll put them in my store for kids to play with.”
Brilliant! Boring, broken, worn out toys. Yay! … not.
As my store was getting established and I started selling yarn, I found that
I was seeing a lot of young moms with small children.
It took me back to when my kids were little and how frustrated I felt trying to keep track of them and still do my shopping. Especially in stores where I was hoping to find some project inspiration. As the moms were shopping in my store, I found that my thread cabinet and zipper racks were irresistible temptations for toddlers. You can’t blame a kid for wanting to entertain themselves. And it broke my heart to hear the mom’s refrains of “No, don’t touch that!” and “Put that back, please!” If I were their age I would have wanted to play with the colourful things too!
I wanted to have a place for the kids, in my store, where they could just be kids.
I wanted them to have a safe fun place that would keep their attention so their moms could relax and shop without worry. I wanted a space that they would be excited to hang out and play in. I made a list of the types of things I would have loved to play with when I was a kid. I set out to make a play area that my inner child would want for herself. I wanted a place to colour; and nice colouring books and crayons. Lots of colours to choose from and both pencil crayons and wax crayons. I wanted a table and chairs that were kid sized, and not scruffy or worn out. I wanted toys that got my imagination going. New toys. And as the mother of two animators, I wanted some toys that were straight out of “Saturday morning cartoons”. I wanted a place to hide away (safely), and a place to build a town with all the toys. A train track and some cars. Yup. Back when I was a kid, I had to make do with what the adults set up. But now, I could make it the way I wanted it. I wanted it to feel like a home, not just a corner in a store with some toys. The shopping trip that followed my planning was a blast!
I felt like a kid in a candy store!
I was so excited to set it all up. I blended it with our Social Saturday corner, which I had tried to set up to feel like a living room with chairs and love seats and coffee tables. And then I waited for the first little kids to come to the store so I could see their reactions. It was actually funny, because normally I saw little kids regularly, but after setting it all up it was a couple weeks before any came in.
And when they did, I told the moms about the play area and invited them to make use of it.
I knew I had done it right when the kids didn’t want to leave!
The first time each of them came, it was a bit of a spectacle as their moms explained that they could come back another day but they really did have to go home. Once they had been here a few times and realized that the toys would be here waiting next time, they didn’t mind to leave. I thought that I had received the very best compliment when a mom called to ask whether she and her daughter could just come and hang out so the daughter could play. I was delighted!
Well, today I was thrilled to be visited by a representative of the Revelstoke Early Childhood Development Committee. She brought with her a plaque and a letter to say that I was the 2018 recipient of their annual “Family Friendly Business Award”. What a lovely honour! She took a photograph and congratulated me. I have to say that it was a wonderful surprise. That wee little girl inside of me busted out her happy dance to celebrate!
I’m so happy that my customers appreciate the efforts I made to create a family friendly space for their shopping.
Thank you to the person who nominated me, and the people who voted for me to receive this award. 😀