Nicki Medford and Jenn Spencer knew they might be on to something about two months ago when they started sharing about their plans to open an indoor play space in north Raleigh.
They had been chatting about the possibility about going into business for a few months, after meeting through a local playgroup, but, when they shared their idea on Facebook this summer, as Medford tells me, the "response went through the roof."
After that, everything happened really fast. They found a space where the landlord is giving them the opportunity to test their idea. After opening last week, lines out the door before they open for the day are the norm. Dozens of people are calling to line up play groups or birthday parties.
In other words, their creation - SnickerDoodles at 3721 Lynn Rd. - is booming.
"We're here for a year to test the concept," Spencer tells me. "We hope to open more locations. This area is so big."
SnickerDoodles, designed for babies to preschoolers, is an indoor play space, coffee shop, craft room and birthday party venue all in one. It's free to play here. Families can walk in and let their children try on the dress up clothes; enjoy pretend play at the train table, construction area and play house; or curl up with the book in the reading nook. You can just walk in. Other than signing a waiver, you don't need to do anything else but have fun. You could even sign on to the wifi.
Spencer and Medford said they looked at similar businesses around the country as they planned SnickerDoodles and came to the conclusion that those that didn't charge admission, but made money in other ways, were the most successful.
They can't compete with, for instance, Marbles Kids Museum in downtown Raleigh, where admission is just $5 and play is spread out across a sprawling two-story building.
So, to support the business - and make it viable in the long run - SnickerDoodles sells items. You can order a cup of freshly made Larry's Beans coffee, pick from a number of cold bottled drinks and select kid-friendly snacks such as Pirate Booty, Goldfish, cereal bars and applesauce. Snickerdoodles, the cookie, also are for purchase.
Gently used children's books - from picture books to chapter books - are for sale. Parents also can pay $5 or $10 so their kids can take part in arts and craft projects in the art studio. Here, kids can enjoy some creative fun and parents don't have to worry about the clean up. (The art area might appeal to older kids who have siblings young enough for the play area).
Medford and Spencer also plan to open up a dino dig area.
SnickerDoodles also is available for playgroups, private gatherings, birthday parties and more.
It's open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., weekdays, but, in response to working parents who asked for other hours, Medford and Spencer have added pop-up times on weekends and evenings. SnickerDoodles' Facebook page will have the latest on when they are open. Right now, Medford and Spencer, both moms, are the only ones working in the space - often with their own kids in tow.
They hope to eventually add staff, but also bring in other providers of children's activities - yoga for kids or a children's therapist, for instance - who could use the space when it isn't open to the public.
Judging from this early response, Medford and Spencer seem to be filling a hole in the market for children's entertainment in Raleigh.
"We're just going to keep going until we get the red light," Medford said. "In the last eight weeks, nobody has said 'no.'"
SnickerDoodles is at 3721 Lynn Rd., Raleigh. A grand opening celebration is planned 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., Sept. 25.