May 14, 2011

Mimi's Kids Club

Mimi's is the Place to be...ask your kids!

By Catherine Sager

"I think when someone sees an empty store front they just can't help but think 'wouldn't it be great if...'  I had always dreamed of owning a play based business and seemed to see potential everywhere," says Becky Bell, the creator of Mimi’s Kids Place it the Price Chopper Plaza.


A certified  Physical Education and Health teacher Becky says, "I was unemployed, and not certain that I wanted to be in the classroom anymore. Not surprisingly, our economy held little promise for middle aged career changers."

With her dream in mind she wrote a proposal for a local grocery store, pitching a "MiMI's" type addition to their offerings.  A good friend looked at it and insisted that she write a much more formal business proposal.  "By the time I got done putting all my ideas on paper, I knew I had to make this happen."

Mimi's opened on May 15, 2010 and business has been steadily growing.  "It's been a year and it's still an absolute joy every day," she says.  "I have been blessed with many regulars who feel more like family than customers."

The bright play center offers a variety of services including drop-off tot sitting, drop-in play area for families, and private birthday parties and other special events.

Mimi’s Kids Club has every type of indoor play a kid would want.  With designated spaces for board games, pint sized kitchen, workshop, a play fort for climbing and sliding, tot sized tables for tea parties and a play area filled with dinosaurs and zoo animals. There are bowling alleys with full sized weighted pins and balls, Electronic Basketball, Foosball, Roller Cade, air hockey, and a small playground area. There is a movie theater with an eight foot screen, which can also be used to play Wii. There is a puppet theater, blocks, trucks, fort building, Geo Trax trains, Barbies, Legos and Duplos, and dolls.  

The staff who work (and play) at Mimi's are friendly and outgoing and never forget that there are parents in the room too.  A coffee pot is always ready and parents are offered the opportunity to join in the fun.

All  staff members are subject to NCA registry and are CPR certified.

When considering hiring a new staff person Becky doesn't just hand someone an application. "I need to see how they interact with children and with parents, and whether they are truly enjoying the atmosphere," she explains. "It takes a special personality to engage young children.

 "I have the most wonderful staff I could ever have imagined," she says.  "Geoff Scheilding is my "morning guy" right now.  The kids love him, and he looks good in a cape.  Nicole loves Barbies and cleaning. She is the most responsible 18 year old I've ever known.  She is most often one step ahead of me in knowing what needs to be done next.  Danielle came to me one day as a "try-out" during a birthday party.  She astounded me with her innate ability to tidy up and play with kids all at the same time. She's responsible for much of our artwork, including the life sized cartoon cutouts that are a favorite photo op.  Adam is our rookie.  A 16 year old kid magnet.  He's my computer and music guy, too.  And, of course, I consider  Darlene Miller to be more an old friend who stops by to play than a staff person. The queen of the story hour has an energy level that is infectious."

She also knows how important trust is when it comes to leaving your child with someone. In her business trust is paramount.  

"I wouldn't want someone to simply stop in and drop a child off with a complete stranger and expect it to go well."

Normally a mom will come in several times to acclimate their child and then, after he or she feels comfortable, they may run next door to pick up a loaf of bread."

That's how it starts and after a few visits the child will ask to go to Mimi's. "That's when a parent might take the time to run errands or clean the house. Short spans of time during which you know your child is safe and engaged is very freeing for busy parents."

"Kids talk," she says. "Word of mouth is really my biggest tool.  Birthday parties are great, because they bring in people who might not make the initiative to scope us out without an invitation.  I'm proud to say that MiMi's is the kind of place that people visit and then want to share with others.  Local daycares and preschools have also been very generous with their willingness to help me spread the word."

Becky intends to keep prices affordable at Mimi’s Kids Club maintaining that "more" is not always better. "It's not just about the money. I don't want to be that place where there are so many children packed in that no one is having fun." In that regard she places a maximum capacity on the number of children allowed inside at a time. "I may have to tell parents to stop back later and I believe that makes sense to parents.  If they have to walk around Price Chopper or the Dollar Store, or pick up some lunch to bring back to Mimi's for lunch.  Outside food is welcome at any time. In most caes parents will wait. They understand that it is in the best interest of their child."

After just one year  Mimi's has already outgrown her space and has expanded to the adjacent store front.

"It's going to be great, she says. "There will be a doorway between the two rooms. The new space our "Little Sport" room, will provide a more high - energy activity choice on a day to day basis. It will also allow the option to offer classes for kids (sports, music, etc), mini summer camps for 3-6 year olds, and Zumba for moms!  

The addition will allow flexibility to provide weekend open play hours again, and to offer a different type of birthday party for our 'older clients' (the 5 to 7 crowd).

Mimi's is planning a Grand re-opening on Friday evening, June 3 and Saturday June 4.

For more information visit Mimi's website

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