Speaker 0 00:01 Hi guys. Today I’m speaking with Courtney Kovats from TD town play lands. If you haven’t been to teeny town play land is a great indoor place gape at uh, in Litchfield park Arizona and it is geared towards the preschool and toddler age group and it is set up like a little teeny town. So, uh, I wanted to talk with Courtney about her vision and her background. So without further ado, I’d like to introduce Courtney.
Speaker 1 00:33 Hello everybody.
Speaker 0 00:35 so Courtney, can you tell me a little bit about your background and your family?
Speaker 1 00:39 Yeah, absolutely. I’m from North Dakota. I grew up there, until I was 16. We moved here. I was still in high school when we got here. , so I finished high school, uh, up in Australia, mountain ranch, been here ever since. This is definitely probably my home. Definitely not leaving and going back to the cold anytime soon. I got four little ones of 14, 12, four and two. Yes, a very big age gap. , married my husband about five years ago. , we live in Goodyear, so just, just right next door to Litchfield park where we’re located. I originally had a background in business, went through some changes at the company, decided that I wasn’t going to be at that company anymore. , and we were about to have our fourth baby, so I just decided to be a stay at home mom. I’m like, well, it’s not going to make sense anymore anyways, so I’ll just, uh, be home with my babies. And it was super happy about that. so that was about, gosh, three years ago now. And my sister’s here, my parents are also here. The rest of my extended family is still, in the Midwest, which we love to visit, but only in the summer.
Speaker 1 02:08 but love everything about Arizona. We all do so many activities here and sports and soccer and all kinds of stuff all the time. So definitely a big family.
Speaker 0 02:22 Yeah. And you really know the toddler and preschool age very well. You’re living in it right now.
Speaker 1 02:31 Yeah, this is now my fourth one is now too. So after four little ones, I get asked a lot actually if I have like, are you a teacher? I’m like, no, I’m, I’m actually in school. Random, but I’m in school to be a high school biology teacher. Completely unrelated to this. But again, another kind of Sidewinder thing that I was like, you know what, I always said that I was going to go back and I was going to finish and that’s what I decided to go back to school for. So I mean technically like I could be a teacher at this point now with teeny town. I don’t know if I’ll ever use it, but it’s just so funny because like you said, now I’m living in the preschool, preschool and toddler world and all the time people are always telling me, Oh my gosh, you’re so creative.
Speaker 1 03:19 I’m like, no, you guys, I just copy all this stuff off Pinterest and everywhere else, like every other mom and the universe because I mean we, there’s an army of moms out there that posts all these ideas and stuff. You just have to go find them. So what, what inspired you to make a teeny town? Yeah, so like I was telling you when I decided to work from home or I mean stay at home with my babies, it kind of became, you know, that normal stay at home vibe where you got to find something for them to do. And I just noticed that in the West Valley there really wasn’t a whole lot for us to do. there was a place and so this is kind of a funny story. We hadn’t gone for a while cause the big kids were on summer break. So they went back to school and you know, August and I go to kind of this place that we’ve been to a lot and it’s, it was geared for toddlers as well and had no idea but it closed.
Speaker 1 04:21 So here mom of two got the baby in the carrier, out of the car, got the toddler out of the car. She knows where we are because she recognizes the parking lot and we’re going in, I go to pull on the door and it’s closed. And I was like, Oh my gosh. Really? And she was all excited. I had to drag my screaming toddler back into the car and I was just losing my mind. I was like, Oh my God, like what am I going to do now? Like we got to go get ice cream or something, right? Cause I promised her good time.
Speaker 1 04:54 But the next thing that popped into my brain was, I could do this. Like I can make a place like this. And I called my mom that day. So it was end of August or so before we opened our place in April. And I said, mom, I got an idea. Let’s, uh, talk about it. And she’s like, okay, what is it? And I talked to her through kind of what I had been thinking about, and she was like, all right, let’s do it. So we started looking into it. We, you know, what we wanted, where we wanted to be and all of these things. And it started to percolate too. Well, let’s make it a little town because we found this amazing builder with all these great buildings and it’s like, Whoa. And then we talked about that for a little while. That’s where teeny town comes from.
Speaker 1 05:43 And it just sorted all to kind of come together as a place where we just wanted to bring joy, play learning, and we wanted to be really unique. We didn’t want to be like all the other places. And, and so when I first started researching, you know, I was going to get the regular play equipment, like the stuff,, at the McDonald’s play places and all of those, like that’s what you get, right? You’re going to build a play place. You look at that. And then when I started to think about what I really wanted and how uniquely we could really make this, that’s when I decided that it was going to be teeny town, um, and more focused on playing and dramatic play and learning through play, then just play equipment.
and it has been one of the most incredible journeys for sure.
Speaker 0 06:35 Yeah. And I was thinking, you know, when my kids went in or my youngest went in, he wasn’t just like climbing up and down on the place scapes. He was engaged in the play and he was thinking about things and he was acting out scenarios. And then the kids get to actually play with other kids. It’s just this automatic thing. They gear toward each other instead of just doing parallel play. They’re really working together. Right. And that’s great for that age.
Speaker 1 07:04 Yeah. I love watching the little kids get dressed up with their chef outfits and putting on the sh, you know, the police officer outfit and then they become a police officer. You know, they’re running around and they’re telling me, lie just give you a ticket. What did you get? What if I get a ticket for them? Well, you were walking too fast and like, Oh my God. Like I apologize officer. I will slow down. And you know, it’s like they see these things in real life and they know so much more than we think they know. And you could see it and how they’re playing with it and they’re making dinner and they’re stirring up the ingredients and Oh, what’s that? Oh, it’s tomatoes in du that I’m making tomato soup. And you’re like, okay. Like there’s, there’s a whole thought process around everything that they play with a teeny town. And, , I do my best to keep it all fresh. Some of the kids don’t like it. They’re like, where’s the fire department? I’m like, well, it’s a police department right now. You know, I’ve done these conversations and explain like, while we’re doing something different, let’s, let’s try something new. , so a lot of the buildings have been, you know, three or four different iterations of themselves and only the short 10 months that we’ve been open.
Speaker 0 08:19 It seems like it’s been so much longer though that you guys have been open
Speaker 1 08:23 in some ways. It does too. I think April was like when we started, you know, when we opened, but there was so much happening behind the scenes before that that, uh, for me it has definitely seemed like a long, long time.
Speaker 0 08:39 Ah, yes so you have a lot of community with teeny town play lands. Can you tell me about the community that you’ve built within that
Speaker 1 08:49 100%? I mean, the community that we have and the parents and kids that we have really are what make me feel so lucky. I’m I missing them so, so much right now I saw one of my little Kitter’s at the grocery store the other day and she recognized me and you know, obviously we’re doing the six foot distance thing. She recognizes me and she wants to give me a hug and I want to give her a hug and it’s just been so hard. But you know, these kids, I see them come in and again, just to short, you know, less than a year that we’ve been open, but I’ve seen so much growth in these kids and there’s one little girl that, you know, the first few times that they came wouldn’t leave mom’s side, like just couldn’t leave. Mom’s side was very worried about all the kids there and didn’t know what was going on really.
Speaker 1 09:43 And now it’s the exact opposite. She comes in, she pops down, she takes her shoes off, she walks inside, like doesn’t even know where mom is most of the time. And it’s just this growth factor. Watching these kids learn new words and, , new activities. And because we’re changing stuff out so much, you know, I’ll, I’ll do, something new and one of the houses and you’ll just see this growth in this, amazing imagination of theirs really come to life. And we do, you know, craft and science events as well. And so I’ll see the progression there too, you know, with these little, , you know, kids that you know, started off barely could put paint on their hand because they were, you know, didn’t want to do the hand print crafts and whatnot too. You know, coming in and making slime and Ooh black and they’re dirty and they love it and mom loves it cause she gets to leave it a teeny town.
Speaker 1 10:46 So yeah, they don’t want, I, I, and I was the same way. I didn’t really do a whole lot of that stuff when I was a stay at home mom either because it was just, you know, I’m worrying about the grocery shopping and I’m not thinking about, Oh, are we going to, what STEM event are we going to do today? and so it’s just so much fun to offer that to the kids and you know, see them learning, looking at geo codes and all these things and watching the learn. And I really, like I said, I really miss my family so much. all my members and anyone that’s listening, we miss you.
Speaker 0 11:25 Yeah. It’s, it’s been really hard going through the, the coronavirus stuff going on right now for our small businesses. Definitely. , and talking about that. So what has been the hardest part about being a business owner other than this
Speaker 1 11:43 crazy sickness? Yeah, other than the, for sure. I mean, just in general. I think there’s a lot of like fluctuations that’ll happen with, uh, with the business. Like, I’ll do one event that,
Speaker 1 11:57 well we did, you know, two times. And the first time I did it, we had almost nobody come. We had like maybe one or two kids and you know, it was just fine, it was fun. And then the next time I do it, 14 kids come. And so it’s just trying to figure out the balance and the fluctuations of everything. And do we want to obviously have a fun play, play space for everybody. And so, you know, you want to think about how many people can we fit safely in here and when can we make sure that, you know, we keep, um, a good amount of people. And then then there’s other days where it’s more about like, well, you know, now we don’t have enough people. You know, we had, you know, only 10 kids for the whole day. So it’s like, how do I figure out that piece of it? And then I think the other part of it is just I have a lot of added responsibility. You know, like we were talking about before, the kids really in this community, I feel like I have a responsibility to them as well, you know, and um, my employees, you know, and so adding all these more people and more kiddos underneath your umbrella, it’s just a lot of responsibility and it’s something that I take, you know, really seriously. Um, but it’s definitely hard sometimes worrying about
Speaker 0 13:15 all of it. Yeah, absolutely. It’s part of being a grownup that sometimes you don’t realize. And when, when you’re a kid, you’re like at teeny town, you’re like, Oh, I can’t wait to be a grownup. And then you become a grownup and you’re like, Oh, can I just go play in the play kitchen and mix the fake ingredients? Don’t you wish that?
Speaker 1 13:38 I know. And I was telling someone the other day because I was telling my head a dream last night. It was a really awesome dream. And I’m like, well, why is it, I was like, I’ve got to just come to teeny town and enjoy it without having any of the responsibility. Partly I felt guilty, you know? I’m like, no, you got to love it. And I do. I love it. But it was, it was just funny that I actually had this dream of like, I just got to go and be the regular mom that just comes and lets their kids play and that leaves, that sounds awesome.
Speaker 0 14:17 I think you should just be the kid that goes in there and plays. That’s, that’s it. That would be even better. That’s going to be your dream tonight. Full, full on, full on dream of, of just an, and you get to throw the Oobleck everywhere and not have to worry about it. I don’t have to clean it up. I don’t care. What have you had been your biggest wins?
Speaker 1 14:47 Um, I think the birthday parties and just, we’ve learned from what people like and want to do with them. The birthday parties have been, um, one, they’re just so much fun. I mean, watching these little boys and girls get to have all their own friends in one space. The private parties really create like a unique in you know, feeling because normally when you’re there, you’re with people you don’t know. And so when you have this group and it’s all their family and friends and they’re all together together, I’m in private party mode is just so much fun. I mean even even not the private parties when we’re open, it’s still, it’s still just such a joy to watch these kids have their people with them and giving them a different thing to do then than just the normal like, Whoa, we’re just going to have a party in the backyard or go swimming or you know, like it’s just something different.
Speaker 1 15:44 And I think, um, it’s definitely been one of the biggest ones. It’s definitely something that, um, I would say is the one that people bring up to me is like, Oh, thank you. So like they’re so just sincere. Thank you so much. Like, this is so different and we really appreciate it. And I don’t even really feel like, you know, it’s not for us, it’s not even that much work. We just, you know, we have the space already. We just love him inviting these groups in for it. Um, in terms of crafts, our biggest one was definitely Forkey for complete madhouse day. Oh goodness. I could, that was another one of those that fluctuation things where I was just like a couple leave it. Like we had I think 40 kids wanting to make a Forkey. It was just insane. Um, but it’s so much fun and everyone, every single one was so unique cause it’s not like I set out, you know, here’s the red pipe cleaner and the blues Wiki sticks and all that.
Speaker 1 16:42 Like I let all the kids pick their own colors. So we had me on greens and pinks and purples and all kinds of looking, career looking for keys. And yet they all had that same look and feel, but they were all so unique. And so that was super fun day. And then we’ve also done a couple other events. we did a Halloween party, we did a Valentine’s day party, both of which really just made me feel like there’s a community here. Like they are looking to us to help enhance their children’s idea of these holidays. Especially we see a lot of kids that might be only children. And so having a place to go to her, treating with other kids or having a place to go exchange,, Valentine’s when you know, obviously kids that aren’t in school yet, they don’t have a class to go exchange Valentines. And so we did an event where you made your box at home, bring it in, bring your Valentines and you can stuff Valentine’s and everybody’s pot and it just gets them the ideas of these holidays., you know, when otherwise they may not have had like a, a party place to do that at. And so we had a lot of fun with those as well.
Speaker 0 17:58 Yeah. Well, one thing I had to add as one of your wins is that the kids come in and they see the town and they’re like, it’s all my size where everything else is, is an adult size. And the kids go and go in and they can see you over the cash register and they can see over the counter where everything else in their life and their little toddler or preschool life is so high and so big. And then they can come in and, and everything is, is made for them. And then the adults have to crawl around and crouched down and they laugh and, and the, and the kids just kinda giggle that the parents are in an awkward position. Like dimples was cracking it that my mom and I had to like squiggle and wiggle into weird places so that he could be comfortable. And we were uncomfortable. And I saw that a lot with other kids too. It’s like come play and you know, it was all at the kid’s size. And so they have that joy. So seeing them have that realization, like they have their own little little world where it’s made for them is I think a huge win for you. So I’m giving you in there.
Speaker 1 19:16 Yeah.
Speaker 0 19:18 , so are the, is there anything else you’d like our listeners to know about you, your business?
Speaker 1 19:24 Oh gosh, we talked about so much already., look out for our one year anniversary party that we’re going to throw soon. Uh, whenever we can, we’ll get into then hopefully gonna wrap some of our same stuff we did for the grand opening, which was like bounce houses and petting zoos and we did all kinds of stuff in the parking lot and we just want to have that same sort of, uh, party again. our summer schedule is going to be, uh, very busy as well. Uh, we’ll probably do most of our craft and science events multiple times throughout the week instead of more. Normally it might just be once or twice., you’ll probably see a busier schedule in terms of that just because we know there’s going to be, we’re going to need to have more opportunities. And, and spread those out. So look for that. and yeah, if you’re looking for a place to book a birthday party, we’d love to have you.
Speaker 0 20:24 And do you also have Melissa and Doug toys too?
Speaker 1 20:27 Oh my gosh, yes. So many toys. I don’t really think of myself as a little shot, but I guess I should,, a lot of the toys that you’ll find on the floor, I try to keep in stock, which sometimes is difficult, but, you know, for instance, if we’re cooking pasta in the cafe, then we’ll be sure to have the same Melissa and Doug pasta set,, out and available for purchasing because if you see something where you know that it’s wow, like they really took to this toy and I never really thought about it before, that it’s an option, sort of a try before you buy kind of situation.
Speaker 0 21:10 That’s perfect. Yeah. And I’ll, I’ll have all of the ways to contact teeny town play land in our show notes so you know how to get in touch with them on Facebook and Instagram and email as well. And the website too. So well, thank you so much for your time, Courtney. I really appreciate it
Speaker 1 21:31 Yeah.
Speaker 0 21:33 All right. Bye guys.