When walking into Gammy & Gumpy's the first reaction is it's not your typical toy store. There are no toys that scream "push me HERE!" or roll by themselves and do flips, or make loud barking noises. No VTech, no cheap plastic toys, no Nintendo's, no Playstations. What you encounter are quality toys that invite the imagination and natural creativity of kids to grow and flourish. I had the chance to sit down with one of the owners, John Daly, to find out more about this "Kidcentric Oasis".
John and Kelly Daly had never owned a toy store before. John came from the hospitality world, opening various restaurants across the metro. Kelly previously owned a few local businesses and worked in real estate. "We were both working a LOT. We never saw each other and we came to the point of thinking 'there has got to be something else.'"
But why a toy store? And one with no battery operated toys? John explains, "We had taken our grandson toy shopping. It was just aisle after aisle of battery operated toys where the toy did everything for the child. We didn't see the imagination within the child. We are not into technology [here]. There is so much more to learn at a young age. We understand they will need it after 8 years old, but cognitive skills are so important when they are young. And Toys are fun, it's a fun business to be in."
Along with no electronic toys at Gammy & Gumpy's, you will also find toys with no harmful chemicals. For me as a Mom of a 16 month-old boy who puts anything and everything into his mouth, this is incredibly important. According to John, "when we order that is important to us. From what the manufacturers say and what is labeled, everything in our store is BPA and PVC free." Kelly is an integral part of making sure the toys are safe, "She thoroughly researches all of our toys and brands. Toy specifications are so much better than what they used to be. One of our big lines, BigJigs, produces wooden trains, puzzles, and wooden fruit. It is a family owned toy company in Great Britain who is known for being super safe."
Where they get their toys from is also a top priority for Gammy & Gumpys. Toys come from around the world, the US, and from local Stillwaterites (check out the incredibly adorable doll outfits that are handmade in Stillwater). "Quality and playability" are the essential aspects they look for. "If it's a fun toy, it's a fun toy, no matter the cost of it. A lot of our toys are less than $25 and many priced at $14.95." The name of the toy companies speaks for themselves. There is Green Toys, a US based company who uses recycled milk jugs for their toys, making them green friendly and durable. Tegu toys are made in Honduras with the mantra of making a for-profit company that fosters a positive social impact through "paying their employees a living wage and prioritizing long-term career growth and development rather than simple task-based jobs." Plan Toys is another toy company from overseas with worldwide recognition for safety. Based in Thailand, it is very eco-friendly, using natural rubber wood trees, works with local farmers for their materials, and keeps sustainability at the forefront.
Gammy & Gumpy's is also set up differently than most toy stores. You won't find endless rows of toys wondering "does this toy even benefit my 1-year-old?" Here there are sections that are divided up for various ages, ranging from newborns to 8 years old. Every section also has a demo table where kids can play with the toys, another uniqueness. "We encourage kids to test out the toys. Kids tastes change so fast", John states. The most popular toys right now? The Fat Brain Spin Again for the youngest crowd of 1-year-olds. 2-year-olds are obsessed with the Green Toy Trucks. 3-year-olds love to play with the Kido Magnatabs (which actually help them learn numbers and letters...shhhhh). 4-6-year-olds go for the Magna-tiles (as well as this 33-year-old) or Tegu Magnetic Blocks. And the 7 and 8-year-olds want the slime, morph toys, or arts and crafts materials. If you have more questions on the toys, don't hesitate to ask. Seriously, John and Kelly's knowledge and passion for toys are contagious.
If you find yourself strolling downtown Stillwater with the family and your little one's legs get tired and realize that the stroller you thought you brought is waiting in your garage, never fear. Save your child's legs and your back, by renting a stroller at Gammy & Gumpy's. Genius. Stoller rentals are just $8 an hour or $35 for the whole day. Out of town or visiting? Just ask John or Kelly to rent for a weekend or even a whole week and they will help you out. Gammy & Gumpys also provides 4 changing tables and nursing areas.
Next door to the toy store is Kids Oasis. Opened in March of 2016, it's a place where kids can have creative open play through games, activities, and socialization. Kids Oasis can also host your child's birthday party. You can rent the space out and provide everything yourself or they can do EVERYTHING for you or somewhere in between. And when they say "everything" they mean the invitations, the entertainment, the cake, the balloons, the food, the party favors, even a party helper who writes down who brought what gift. Everything. Kids Oasis also has year-round events including a New Years Eve Party for the kiddos (early enough for the adults to enjoy later activities), Daddy & Me Pizza Parties, Tea Time with Daddy, Grandparents days with coffee and donuts, and the annual big Santa event. Check out their Facebook Page for upcoming events.
If you talk to a local parent of a young child in Stillwater, you know that Gammy & Gumpy's is loved by the community. Judging by the amount of their involvement, Gammy & Gumpy's loves the community just as much. Sponsorships and participation in local events include Hometown for the Holidays, Harvestfest, Summer Tuesdays, Mainstreet IBA's Trick or Treat, and Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep- an organization which helps families who have lost their children. They have even sponsored gift certificates to local schools for fundraisers and participated in local diaper drive donations. "We sponsor and promote really any Stillwater family event."
Gammy & Gumpy's is unlike any other toy store I have visited. It's a warm atmosphere in which all kids of every size and learning ability are welcomed. Creativity, imagination, and letting kids be kids are their top priority. And if your kid plays there for hours without buying anything, that's ok, they will still get a balloon before they leave- weather abiding (why we love Minnesota-right?).
If you haven't found the perfect toy for Christmas this year I encourage you to visit this one-of-a-kind toy store. Take out the batteries and let your child's natural and inventive mind wander.
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