When Kazoodles, a toy store in Vancouver, opened in Clark County in 2006, founders Bob and Mary Sisson had a vision for encouraging play – not just for kids, but people of all ages. Now, over a decade later and under new ownership as of January 2020, the company continues to thrive as a small independent business in Clark County.
Leah Pickering, who came on board as the store’s manager in 2014, is the new owner and is dedicated to preserving open-ended developmental play for everyone. Knowing that the Sissons were planning to retire, Pickering had several years to prepare for the purchase and to learn the nuts and bolts of the business. Kazoodles currently has four employees that span the generations, including a teenager and a grandparent. They often hire extra help over the holidays to help boost customer service.
The store stocks high quality toys, books, and all types of games that are enriching, fun and educational. Their goal is to provide unique products that customers can’t find elsewhere. “We focus on lasting play value versus the ‘hot right now’ trend,” Pickering says. “We do still carry a few trendy items here and there, but they have to be just the right type of toy to make it to Kazoodles’ shelves.”
The store also offers a variety of different events from month to month, including weekly “crafternoons,” where kids can visit the shop and complete different craft activities led by the store’s staff. Kazoodles has a long-standing partnership with IQ Credit Union and regular workshops are offered at the store to help teach kids the importance of money management.
In an era of heavy screen usage, Pickering aims to continue to promote and standby Kazoodles’ message of kid-powered play. “This message resonates with parents of today,” she shares. “The research shows that play is the best way to foster curiosity in children. We are perpetually learning about kids, play and fun. I am a Certified Play Expert and love to use that training to not only aid our customers, but to teach and train my staff.”
The company’s dedication to customer service is another factor of success that has fueled growth in the community. “I believe our dedication to the community makes Kazoodles shine,” Pickering says. “We want to improve the lives of our fellow Vancouverites in everything that we do.”
Pickering explains that Vancouver residents have really embraced the call to shop local, which she believes is very important for the continued success of Kazoodles. “The benefits of shopping locally cannot be understated,” she shares. “Many of our customers strive to shop locally. Each person has their unique take on just what that means. They choose to shop in smaller shops, support and share social media posts, or use the best marketing tool we’ve found – word of mouth recommendation. All of these helps keep the ‘shop local’ movement alive.”
Looking toward the future, she is excited about continuing to promote play for people of all ages and walks of life. “I’m looking at the future of Kazoodles with a growth mindset. The exact shape and type of growth this entails are still up in the air,” Pickering explains. “My immediate goal is to use the current space as effectively as possible and look for new and innovative ways to get our name out into the community. It is my goal to continue into the next generation of Vancouver families, the legacy of kid-powered play Bob and Mary Sisson began.”
For more information, visit the Kazoodles website.
13503 SE Mill Plain Blvd. Suite B-3 Vancouver