Published online: Sunday, Nov. 30, 2014 Print: Monday, Dec. 1, 2014
BAINBRIDGE ISLAND — Calico Cat Toy Shoppe in Winslow is magic to Janie Ekberg, who took her children to the store and now her grandchildren.
“It’s the center of Bainbridge Island. It’s a magical place. It’s all about kids,” she said.
The magic of Calico recently expanded, giving children and their parents a little more space.
Owner Elisabeth Dahl bought the store next door, tore down the wall and nearly doubled the store’s space in the Winslow Green shopping area.
The September expansion added 700 square feet to the original store’s 1,000 square feet. A game and puzzle store next door, which Dahl bought in 2009, has another 1,000 square feet. The wall between the toy store and the game store is a firewall and could not be removed, Dahl said.
“People are freaking out, like it’s the coolest thing ever,” said Elisabeth’s 17-year-old daughter, Cydney.
Even after moving board games and puzzles next door in 2009, the main toy store at 104 Winslow Way W still felt claustrophobic, said Dahl’s husband, Tim.
“It’s been so crowded for years and years,” he said.
When the chance for a second expansion came, Dahl jumped at it.
“My mom has been talking about wanting to do something bigger for a long time,” Cydney said. “When she first bought the store, she really had an idea of what the store was going to look like in her head. And now, with the expansion, we’re a lot closer to what that looks like. She told me this morning, ‘When I bought the store, this is what I wanted to do with it.’”
Dahl and her family closed shop for a few days, allowing for a quick wall demolition before reopening within a week.
The expansion was necessary to bring customers what they wanted, Cydney said.
“Everything that we have in here now is the exact amount of things we had in the store before,” she said. “You don’t turn around and smack into someone else. You can actually move around well.”
The expansion has allowed a few additional toys, too. Calico now has more Legos, puppets, art supplies and science-centered toys, as well as brand-new toys — bikes and scooters.
“Now you can actually see all of the toys they have in here,” Rebecca Rockefeller said.
Calico is the Rockefellers’ favorite toy store, she said.
Rockefeller and her 8-year-old daughter, Mira Rockefeller Campbell, were in the store on Black Friday, but not for Christmas gifts. Mira was searching for a birthday gift for her sister.
The store isn’t the Rockefellers’ favorite because it’s close, it because of the well-made toys, Rebecca said.
“It’s not all mass produced, plastic toys,” she said.
Several of the toys are from Seattle-area toy makers, Dahl said.
Quality isn’t the only reason customers come back.
It’s a store where children can play and touch the merchandise, Ekberg said. That’s part of the magic she mentioned.
During Friday’s visit to the store, her 2-year-old granddaughter played the drums and tested the spinning tops.
The magic isn’t only in the toys, the friendly employees add to the experience, Ekberg said.
Many of those friendly employees were working at the store before Dahl bought it in 2007. The toy store has been in business for 31 years, Dahl said.
After expansions on both sides of the original store, Ekberg had one question for Dahl: “What way are you going next?”