Bob and Mary Sisson, owners of Kazoodles, know all about the magic of childhood. Their specialty toy shop encourages kids and adults alike to step into that magic, embrace it and simply play.
The Sissons have called Clark County home for 40 years and they both primarily worked as journalists for their careers, but after noticing a need for a neighborhood toy store, they decided to make the leap into small-business ownership.
“Knowing nothing, we took classes and researched, visiting more than 30 toy stores and talking to as many owners as would take the time,” Mary said. “We got a SCORE counselor and joined the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association and the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce. So what if we’re both journalists? We were willing to learn how to do this business thing to provide this for our community.”
Kazoodles officially opened in in March of 2006 and since then, it has made quite the impression on locals.
“Aside from consistently being voted ‘best toy store’ by Vancouver Family Magazine each year, it’s safe to say we’re Vancouver’s favorite toy store because we’re the only toy store,” Mary said. “We’ve seen sales rise each year and should be on track this year to do double what we did our first year. Our customer loyalty program is old school. We track customers’ purchases on three-by-five cards, and after six visits we give them back 10 percent in a gift certificate. Since starting that program in 2014 we’ve gone from two drawers of customer cards to eight. We mail out more than 6,000 holiday fliers and have an email list of about 7,200.”
In addition to Mary, the store has one full-time employee, two part-time employees and they’ll add three seasonal part-time employees. Bob recently retired from his journalism job and helps out around the store often.
The store’s selection is frequently described as “well curated,” meaning there is a wide but select variety of toys, games and books that help draw kids and adults alike into healthy play.
“People need to play at every stage of life,” Mary said.” Kids learn through play. That’s how they develop creativity, curiosity, imagination, muscles, empathy and so much more.”
Whether it’s a classic game that a customer is looking for, or something that was just released from the latest toy fair, Kazoodles will likely have it – and they will even gift wrap it for free if a customer asks.
Mary said that one of the primary differences between their store and the big-box retailers is that their entire space is dedicated to childhood and play.
“You can buy toys online,” she said. “You can hit the toy aisle at a big box. But what Kazoodles offers is the experience. People walk in and say, ‘wow!’ We have toys out for kids to play with. We ask questions to learn about the child who will receive the gift, so we can help match the toy to that child’s interests and developmental stage. I’ve completed Certified Play Expert training, and our staff is well versed in toys for kids with special needs.”
The store also hosts weekly “Crafternoons” and other regular events like financial workshops for kids, local author book releases and more. Kazoodles also does their part in promoting the growth of the local community, through school and child-related nonprofit donations.
The future for Kazoodles is bright.
“We will keep doing all we can to let people know they have a local alternative when they’re looking for toys,” Mary said. “We expect Kazoodles to be serving Clark County for a long time.”
Kazoodles is located at 13503 S.E. Mill Plain Blvd., Suite B-3, in Vancouver.