Take the phrase “like a kid in a toy store” as far as it can go and you’ll end up at Kiddywampus (4400 Excelsior Blvd., 952-926-7871) in St. Louis Park. This is an interactive toy store, which encourages children to hang out, have parties, handle the merchandise, and even paint on the walls.
One typical Saturday found a brother and sister cobuilding a space launching pad while a flock of preschool princesses, butterflies painted on their faces, waited to be picked up from a birthday party. A dad walked in and said, “Where are they? I can hear the squealing.” An employee laughed and answered, “Just follow the noise!”
Exactly what owner Amy Saldanha dreamed. Her bright eyes, quick laugh, and bouncy, six-foot enthusiasm make her the perfect proprietor for a child’s play land. “I didn’t want one of those stores where the kids couldn’t touch anything,” she says. Kiddywampus is the antithesis, both in its touch-everything philosophy and its charitable giving (all after-tax profits will go to children’s charities). “It’s the store I always wanted for my kids (ages three, six, and nine).”
Actually, this is Kiddywampus’s second draft. Early converts will recall the previous location in Edina, where children had to be shuffled into the alley to find the front door—and the bathroom was back through the alley, in a Bruegger’s Bagels!
Still, the store was a smashing success. Kids loved the freedom and parents loved the community created by this hybrid concept. In March, less than two years after opening, Kiddywampus moved and quadrupled in size.
Of course, the experience remains the same—samples of all the toys are unpackaged for playing and all items are appropriately shelved. But the store is on a “real” street now, with a “real” parking lot. The drop-in art studio ($8 per child) has separate stamp, coloring, and paint stations. And the party room? A light-filled, two-story former garage with gigantic theatrical trees, and a 100-foot-long wall that has only one purpose: to be on the receiving end of paint thrown by the children. That’s right—what would be an unmitigated disaster in your home is “Jackson Pollack–style creative expression.” Even the older boys who cringe at coloring will get their art on here.
As for the bathroom, the new Kiddywampus has two and they’re literally baby steps from everything, prompting one employee to throw her hands up and shout: “We’ve made it. This is the Ritz!”