In early March, Linden Hills parents Bridget O’Boyle and her husband Jim Rabidue opened a children’s store called It’s Play Time! From the outside, the 3100 W. 50th St. space might look like a daycare, but once inside, its purpose is clear: Go play!
The brightly colored store is designed as a place where parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles – even babysitters – can do projects with their kids.
You can simply buy a project, which range from $5 to $40 for kids age 2 and up, and do it at home. However, the innovation is a large, ready-for-a-mess craft room where you can build your creation for no additional change- leaving the cleanup to the staff.
Tammy Hendricks is such a fan, she’d been to the store three times in its first week.
"It’s so easy to flip in a video and have your kids watch that, but [It’s Play Time!] uses creativity," said the Edina resident. "You totally focus on your kids."
Hendricks said that her daughter Grace, 5, loves the animal projects and Madeline, 8, likes the fashion cutout dolls. "No matter how different all of your kids are, there’s something for everybody," she said.
Ann Mullinix is another quickly devoted fan. "My kids just went bonkers in there," she said. "My 9-year-old daughter Samantha thinks it’s cool and can’t wait to go back. She talks about it everyday."
Mullinix said loves the concept, too. "The feel of parent and kid involvement – to go pick out a project, to be able to sit there and to do it – is really encouraging and exciting," she said.
About the business
The shop sits in a newly constructed Fulton neighborhood retail/residential space with big windows.
The 50th & Xerxes store is broken into sections based on the various projects. There’s an arts-and-crafts area with painting projects, finger-paints for the younger kids ($9.99) and a wooden jewelry box/treasure box for those who are older ($22.99).
In the store’s cooking corner, there are kits for making cupcakes ($13.99) and even a one for making dog biscuits, complete with cookie cutter ($11.99). A science and education section houses projects such as a Cosmic Rocket (baking-soda-and-vinegar powered, $10) and a geology kit called the Rock Tumbler ($39.99).
There’s also a building section that has birdhouse kit projects ($15.99), which include parts to make a small wooden birdhouse, and paint for finishing touches.
A games area and a space for snacks and parenting literature are also tucked into the store.
Said O’Boyle of the wide selection, "We try to get really individual stuff."
The couple says they use their children Max and Lucie, aged 5 and 1-1/2, respectively, and their kids’ friends to test out the projects’ fun quotient.
O’Boyle and Rabidue said adults have really gotten into some of the projects, too. "Every one of them was like, ‘Oh my God, this was so fun,’" O’Boyle said of parents’ reactions.
The entrepreneurial couple also admits that when they have time to kill, they play with projects in the store, too.
Creating a business
O’Boyle and Rabidue said their idea for the store hatched about a year ago, when Rabidue was working in promotions and marketing for General Mills. He worked with many kid-oriented brands. O’Boyle, worked part-time for a kids’ cooking program, but because restless.
"When I was at home, there would be so many days when I wanted to get out of the house and do something," O’Boyle said.
Added Rabidue, with a laugh, "You don’t want to make a mess at your house, either."
O’ Boyle said these experiences led to the concept of a place where they could play with their kids, make a mess and do many different projects.
Rabidue said many grandparents have been thrilled with the craft room because their homes might not be equipped for the mess that comes with a kid’s art project.
O’Boyle said it took them awhile to find the right spot for the business because they wanted somewhere close to home that was being built so they could design their own space.
The pair started the business using a small loan. They acknowledge it takes a lot of energy to start your own business, but that they’re having fun – especially since they get to work as a family. The two work in shifts at the store, so they can also spend time with their kids.
Although the business concept focuses on kids interacting with the grown-ups in their lives, it’s also turned out to be a very "communal" atmosphere for the adults. "The kids bring people together," O’Boyle said.
The two plan to make the business available for birthday parties and parenting groups soon, adding that a dad’s group has already asked about meeting in the store.
Hendricks said she likes the store, too, because it encourages a feeling of accomplishment. "We’re more apt to finish the project" at the store, she said.
Mullinix said she’s glad that her neighborhood has the new resource, which she said has had a uniting effect. "It really has created a community," she said.
Hours for the new business are Monday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; and Sunday, noon-6 p.m. For more information, visit www.itsplaytime.com.