Laughter fills the air as kids zip down slides and caper about a jungle of wall-to-wall inflatables and obstacle courses within Monkey Joe’s play center. Kids 12 and under romp throughout the air-conditioned playscape’s obstacles, and tykes 3 and under stretch their imaginations on the softer and smaller attractions in the toddler play area. An orchestra of electronic beeps fills the arcade, and the scents of savory pizza waft from a concessions stand. Colorful balloons and cakes pack party rooms, where birthday boys and girls unwrap presents and brand-new imaginary friends.
A wide range of puzzles, play mobiles, and postmodern dollhouses enthralls every child and inner child who crosses The Play House Toy Store’s magical threshold. Toys from top brands such as Playmobil and Ravensburger share shelf space with handcrafted collectibles designed to be cherished by all ages. Wooden and cardboard puzzles from Melissa and Doug ($17.99+) befuddle brains with jigsaw images of animals, alphabets, and Jackson Pollock paintings, and Lego sets and accessories ($4.99+) equip architects to-be with polychromatic training palettes. Handcrafted Madame Alexander dolls ($44.99–$49) decked out in queenly costumes take high tea with their playfellows, oblivious to the knights and plastic-melting dragons waging war on nearby Playmobile sets ($9.99–$44.99).
Ask Shawn Slome, and he'll tell you that pretty much everyone feels good when they walk into Twig: the customers, the staff, and of course, the owner himself. That's because the shop only sells environmentally friendly products, and every shirt or frying pan helps support green and fair-trade practices.
The seeds for Twig were planted decades ago, when Slome's passion for activism was jump-started by the 1970 Earth Day celebration. Fast forward to 2007 when Slome opened Twig, leaving behind his career in the outlet-clothing world. As Slome told US News in 2010, "It feels like my business [now] has more purpose than money alone or profit." Additionally, Retailing Insight selected Twig for a feature story based on its credentials as an approved member of Green America Business Network and for its independent retail trade reputation. Publication readers also crowned the store Best Environmentally Friendly Store for the past four years via its independent weekly poll. The eco-savvy staff members share their boss's enthusiasm. They happily tell customers all about their favorite products, which might include homemade chocolates from Roland's or quirky animal hats from Andes Gifts, and they know exactly where everything comes from. Buyers also check that their retail partners maintain fair labor practices and provide a safe work environment for their employees. Though stringent, this process has filled the shop's aisles and shelves with clothing, kitchenware, and other home goods. At the back even lies a kids' section with stacks of blocks, games, wood instruments, and other toys.
Twig's altruism does't hinge entirely on its retail sales. The shop also hosts fundraisers for local charities, non-profits, and other organizations that could easily have a place on Mother Nature's speed dial.
Sweetbottoms Baby Boutique stocks more than 6,000 natural, eco-friendly products for babies and their families. Caretakers can swaddle infants in cloth diapers and coverall gowns or dress them up for blind baby dates with stylish miniature shoes and hats. Handcrafted Little Alouette wooden teething toys and child-safe trinkets made from natural rubber or organic cotton protect emerging baby teeth or vampire fangs. New mothers and mothers-to-be can find their own apparel and parenting products in the boutique, including diaper bags and totes, breastfeeding accessories, and maternity garments.
Each of the family-owned shops in Toys & Co.'s chain is an oasis of fun and interactive play for kids, housing shelves loaded with dolls, stuffed animals, and games. During visits to the magical emporium, children while away the time playing with trains and melting away the stresses of preschool or slow business at their lemonade stand. Kids of all ages can sharpen cognitive skills with diversions such as puzzles and word games, including developmental infant toys to boost burgeoning motor functions.