Business owner Sarah Lin with her son, Reid.
Meet Sarah Lin: part businesswoman, teacher, playground supervisor, and all-around fun-maker. In 2008, when Sarah and her husband, Tony, first moved to Memphis from Washington, D.C., owning a business was definitely not on her bucket list. But after the birth of their son, Reid, Sarah soon realized Memphis lacked something she’d found in other cities: an indoor play space.
That’s when their idea took root. Excited, they discussed plans to open their own playground and café with family and friends.
“You have to be confident in yourself and your belief that this is a good concept,” notes Sarah. “Tony was my cheerleader.” In November 2012, the couple opened Kid’s Play, a 5,000 square-foot funhouse in Germantown. Here, in air-conditioned bliss, children ages 2 to 9 can to burn off steam by climbing, bouncing, sliding, and exploring their way through an array of playground structures while mom and dad relax.
The business is a creative outlet for Sarah, who taps into her kindergarten teaching background to produce arts and crafts projects, obstacle courses, and themed birthday parties. Best of all, 4-year-old Reid has plenty of fun when he comes to hang out with mom at the office.
Since Sarah is Jewish and Tony is Chinese, the couple has found a home in both communities. Reid attends Chinese school on Sundays and preschool at Temple Israel’s Barbara K. Lipman Early Learning Center during the week. That sense of inclusion carries over to the center as well.
“We try to allow all children the opportunity to experience this place, regardless of their race or socioeconomic status,” she says. One day, children from the Harwood Center might be visiting, another day, Head Start preschoolers. Regardless, children light up when they come inside.
“It’s an awesome experience,” she says.
In addition to being creative, Sarah is developing the business savvy that comes from listening to your customers. When parents weren’t rushing to buy the drip coffee and snacks carried at the cafe, she took note. First, she introduced a “no food/no drink” policy to deter people from bringing their own. Then, she added fresh fruit smoothies and Lavazza brand coffee.
“Moms love their lattes,” she says with a laugh. Sales soon picked up.
She also fostered a relationship with Mellow Mushroom, the neighboring restaurant. Now when kids get hungry, moms can check the menu, order a pie, and the pizzeria brings it over, pronto. The café today maintains a healthy buzz that prompts parents to stay longer.
On the morning I drop in, I notice several grandmothers chatting while their grandkids play on an inflatable slide. In another center, a college-aged nanny helps her little girl build a castle out of foam blocks. There are squeals of laughter mixed with the occasional shriek from someone apparently having a bit too much fun. No matter, employees are on-deck to help keep the decibels down and make sure toys and equipment are routinely checked and cleaned.
Regulars also take advantage of Sarah’s monthly specials, like the popular character dinners, where kids and parents can dine with a princess or super hero. More recently, she’s has introduced Parents Night Out, allowing parents to leave their kids here for a dinner date without the hassle of lining up a sitter.
Alone time for her own family isn’t too common these days, but after living in D.C., where Tony worked for the
Justice Department doing computer forensics (he tracked down child pornographers), they were ready for a more relaxed lifestyle. Now employed by Smith and Nephew, Tony picks up the slack at home by doing laundry, cooking, and grocery shopping. He also balances the books. Sarah splits her time between managing the business and taking care of Reid.
“I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. Now, I’m a never-at-home mom,” she says with a laugh. But that’s okay.
“My dad told me, there’s never a right time to do something, you just have to do it.”
Kids Play • kidsplaymemphis.com • 9155 Poplar Avenue, #27, Germantown, 38138 • 758-1015