When deciding what toys and games to stock at Imagine That!, owner Marlene says, “I ask myself, 'Can they get this at Toys"R"Us?' And if they can, I don’t get it.” Marlene, who has an extensive background in child development, prefers games that ask for strategy skills and toys that develop deductive reasoning. “You see those players who are just driven to win,” she says, “But that’s not fun.” Marlene likes games that level the playing field and invite everyone to have fun while using their brains. She has paired such games with everyone from 18-month-old babies to seniors who can still remember when jigsaw puzzles were chiseled from spare wooden teeth.
Marlene began with making crafts and learning activities for her own children, but as soon as she broke out the art supplies, the neighborhood kids started emerging from their prairie-dog holes. Inspired by her youthful following, Marlene began an interactive crafts stall at the farmer’s market. She expanded from her 8’x12’ stall 15 years later to the 11-room Imagine That!, where little hands find paints and easels, clever toys, and miniatures for furnishing dollhouses or entertaining well-trained gerbils.
“They come from all over, even Canada,” Marlene says of her dollhouse miniatures' customers. In addition to myriad miniatures and walls filled with toys and games, Imagine That! has craft rooms, a puppet area, and a chamber filled with whirligigs. The whirligigs also blossom in front of the rainbow-hued shop itself, beckoning passersby to stop in and explore.