A new business called Mad Hatter Play Cafe — a shop that could have children and parents alike jumping for joy — is planned for an early summer opening at the Centralia outlets.
Parents of small children are often striding the line between entertaining their kiddos and getting much-needed relaxation, oftentimes sacrificing their ability to recharge for the sake of their kids’ development.
At least, that was the experience of Lisa Sills, 42, when she was a mom to two kids under the age of 5 several years ago.
Knowing that other parents encounter the same Catch-22, Sills and her husband Ray have decided to open up a business that aims to give children a chance to play and parents a chance to kick back, Sills said.
When Sills’ son Ronan, 15, and daughter Cyndal, 13, were 4 and 2 years old, Sills would travel to the Vancouver area to visit a business called “Cafe Sip and Play,” where parents could grab a cup of coffee with a friend while kids could play on a wide-ranging indoor playset.
“I would try desperately to get down there at least once a month,” Sills said. “I was a stay-at-home mom and (Ray) was working all the time. Just to have that sanity moment, I was willing to drive.”
The journey from the Twin Cities to Vancouver wasn’t something Sills worried too much about, given the benefits the business gave to her family, she said.
“So I’d drive all the way to Vancouver from here and have a hot cup of coffee while it was still hot, and my kids were perfectly content,” she said. “I could see them everywhere that they were. I could go in to play with them or they could come out if they needed something.”
She said it was a great place to get together and meet up with a fellow adult while the kids did what kids do best.
Inspired by the play cafe in Vancouver, Sills actually wanted to start the upcoming Mad Hatter Play Cafe years ago but was never in the right life stage to do it. Now with an additional child, 5-year-old Kian, Sills and her husband are ready to make the move.
The business will serve coffee to adults in a cafe area full of comfortable furniture in hues of gray and black with cafe tables and larger meeting tables interspersed among them. The adult area will take up about 3,000 square feet of the total 6,000, including the coffee bar.
The kids’ 3,000 square-foot play area is separated from the peripheral adult area by a low wall made of giant bricks.
Right now, there’s a sizable 2-and-under area sectioned off full of colorful toys that the sitters and scooters can play with at their leisure. There’s also a trampoline, several bike-like play toys, a jungle gym and an assortment of many other kinds of toys that kids of a certain age may want to play with. There will also be activities for older kids to take part in, housed in the cafe area.
But the real stars of the playground are still taking shape.
Take the tiny town, for instance. It’ll take up an entire wall of the play area, with small-scale houses and shops for the kids to play in and around. The small structures will feature things like a tiny fire station, Fuller’s grocery, a school, a home and others.
The faux fire station will have real firefighter equipment featured, Sills said.
“We want the kids to be able to play in the places they see Mom and Dad go each day,” she said, adding that the touch of local, recognizable institutions in the tiny town will help foster a sense of community.
There will also be a building area along another wall, where kids will don toy construction hats and vests and engineer their own structures with giant building blocks, like LEGO. The kids will be building their structures under a pre-constructed shell.
The Sills family also had kids from a local school design a mural that will brighten up the back wall of the play area.
Mad Hatter Play Cafe will be located at 2100 Haviland St. in the Centralia Outlets, next to DXL.