In its six years as a brick-and-mortar store, Let’s Play Something has been in three different locations.
But the new location in downtown Centralia, which opened Feb. 24, is the last, said owner Toni Bennett.
“This is our final and forever home,” Bennett said of the new location.
Bennett and her husband, Adam, started Let’s Play Something in May 2010 as an online store. At the time, their daughter, Amanda, 13, was a toddler, and Toni wanted to do something to make money that would allow her to stay home like she had with her older children.
“We chose toys because we figured if it didn’t work out, at least we’d get a good price on toys,” she recalled with a laugh.
But the online toy store did work. At first, the couple sold on eBay, then opened their own eBay store. In 2015, they took the plunge and opened their first physical location in Napavine. They moved the business to the Fairway Center in 2018 and were there until just a few weeks ago. They just reopened on North Tower Avenue in downtown Centralia between Slusher’s Coin Shop and the Centerville Café. No matter where they have been located, Toni said they have always tried to have a shop that feels old fashioned and welcoming without feeling old and outdated.
“I just hope people like the new space and that it’s warm and inviting and they get that warm, happy feeling when they come here,” Toni said. “That was one thing that was cool about going back to in-person shopping was seeing humanity in person again. Of course, you’re coming to a happy place. How could you not be happy?”
The Bennetts decided to move their business after they were recruited to downtown Centralia by the owner of their current building. He contacted them several months ago because he had always wanted to have a toy store at that location. At first, Toni said, they said no because making that move during the COVID-19 pandemic seemed too risky. Though their business started online, they had made the decision to shut down their online sales feature several months before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Toni said knowing the immense work selling online requires, they decided instead of renewing online sales, they would offer curbside pickup and personal shopping. Though it was a good option to keep their business going when the shop itself was shut down, Toni said it was still a great deal of work for them and their staff.
“It was so exhausting,” she recalled.
The building owner persisted, often sending them photos of the building and events downtown, and eventually the Bennetts said yes to the suggestion to move. Toni said looking back, becoming a downtown Centralia shop almost seemed destined for them. When their family first moved to Lewis County, one of the first places they loved to visit as a family was the Olympic Club for movies. Toni recalled pointing out the space that is today their shop’s home to her husband even back then.
“We would sit across the street and say ‘how cool would it be to have a toy store right there?’” Toni recalled. “At that time, we didn’t even know we would ever have a brick-and-mortar store.”
Toni said one of the things that excites the Bennetts about their new home in downtown Centralia is the chance to be part of a vibrant business district and community. Their business has always made a point of giving to the community. Most notably, they have donated to the St. Joseph School auction, Friends of the Lewis County Guardian Ad Litems and the Lewis County Foster Parents Association. The choice to give is a natural one for her, Toni noted.
“Just being able to be in a position where I can make a difference, how cool is that?” Toni said. “Not everybody gets that opportunity.”
The other exciting thing is the potential additional foot traffic. The Bennetts began working on the downtown Centralia space to ready it for opening more than two months prior to their grand opening on Feb. 24. Toni said even while working there, they would frequently have people just walk in off the street, not knowing they were not yet open for business.
“We’ve had more people walk in in a day than we’d normally have in a week,” she said.
Most of the Bennett’s goals for their new space have to do with waiting for COVID-19 regulations to allow them to get back to their regular offerings. For instance, the shop prides itself on encouraging shoppers to play but their large demonstration area has been closed for some time. They hope to be able to bring back more toys for kids to touch and try. The hope is that community events such as their make-and-take art events may be able to return.
“We do want to get back to having crafting events as well as some new events,” said employee Olivia Alvord.
Let’s Play Something
Location: 109 N. Tower, Centralia
More Information: LetsPlaySomething.com or @LetsPlaySomething on Facebook