By David Pan/Lynnwood Today editor
It’s easy to see why the Playdate Café might be considered a paradise for kids.
The massive 8,500-square foot indoor play center has just about everything a kid could want.
The centerpiece of the café is the 2000-foot play area where children up to age 6 can play to their hearts’ content. The play area includes a bouncy house, climb up/slide down structures, a custom-made play town with a café, theater, fire station and train station along with many ride-on toys for the kids to scoot around on.
While the kids are playing, parents have plenty of things to do, such as sipping an espresso, eating a bowl of homemade soup or catching up on email through the free Wi-Fi.
That’s exactly what owner Lizz Quain had in mind when she opened the café.
“This is not only for the kids,” Quain said. “I designed this for the mom and dad and the caregivers. It’s for them to get out of the house and to have social interaction and to have adult conversation and to commiserate with other people.”
Quain knows what she speaks of. As a stay-at-home mother for the first year of her twin girls’ lives, Quain came to realize the importance of being able to get out of the house and have a change of scenery with some positive and nurturing food.
“I designed this just as much for the grown-ups as for the kids,” Quain said.
Quain, who had a 20-year business career mostly in sales and marketing, did her homework. When she decided she wanted to open her own business, Quain threw herself into learning all she could about playdate cafes.
She worked at a healthy food café and at another playdate establishment. Quain attended about 50 entrepreneurial workshops. She networked and communicated with other playdate café owners throughout the United States and the world. In the three years prior to opening the Playdate Café, Quain estimated she spent 10,000 hours to get to the point where she could put together a business plan to present to the banks.
“It was definitely a full-time job,” she said. “It’s something that I was so passionate about. Every single day I woke up and was so excited. I never felt that with any other job or any other business I’ve had.
The Playdate Café hosted its first two birthday parties in January and then started inviting select Facebook fans to come in. The café started charging for admission in late February.
Admission is $8 first child, $6 for sibling or crawler with 10- and 20-visit discount play passes available.
The playdate café concept initially came from England, Quain said. There are different types of facilities popping up around the country. Some emphasize the indoor play center, while others have a jungle gym structure or a bouncy house.
Quain has been trying to grow her business slowly, but it actually hasn’t been easy as the response from families has been surprisingly strong.
“It’s growing beyond my wildest dreams, which is good and bad,” Quain said.
During the morning on some rainy days this spring, the play area was at full capacity.
“I really felt that there was a need, there was a void,” Quain said.
Quain definitely wanted to be in the suburbs, which she noted is where families with young children generally live. She had considered Bellevue but eventually found the location in Lynnwood. Quain liked that the location was near Interstate 5 and I-405. Some people are driving up to an hour to come to the Playdate Café.
“There are a lot of families up here,” Quain said. “There are less things for kids to do. … The community has really embraced us and they’re thrilled we’re here and we’re thrilled to be here.”
Quain works with local companies and is all about healthy food. The food is made in house and also is brought in.
“We try to be natural and wholesome with a few indulgences,” Quain said.
Because the Playdate Café is a licensed food service establishment outside food is not permitted. Quain noted that people can leave and come back to the café.
Parents definitely need to supervise their children. “This is not a day care,” Quain said. “We’re not here to baby sit your kids.”
Quain said that “most people are great about it” when they are informed about the policies.
While the Playdate Café is starting out principally as a drop-in play center, Quain has big plans for the future.
In the next month or two, Quain will be adding a preschool and then plans to offer various enrichment classes (dance, yoga, music, arts and crafts, cooking) in the café’s multipurpose rooms. The café already has hosted numerous birthday parties since opening.
“We’re trying to be a one-stop shop for families with young children,” Quain said. “We want to be a community gathering space for families, where they can come and play and eat and learn and celebrate and gather. That’s our goal, our mission.”
The Playdate Café is located at 4114 198th St. SW. in Lynnwood. Hours are Monday through Thursday (9 a.m.-4 p.m.), Friday (9 a.m.-8 p.m.). The café is closed on Saturdays and Sundays in July and August but will reopen on weekends in September. For more information go to www.playdatecafe.biz or call 425-582-7007.