Whimzy stocks a curated collection of toys that kids come back to again and again.
It’s not a huge space, but it still takes a couple laps to take in all the treasures that are displayed with care at Whimzy toy store in Lakeville. There’s the sweet reading corner, stocked with books; enough arts and crafts kits to keep even the busiest young artist busy for winter; games galore; dress-up clothes; baby toys; small novelties; large novelties; stuffed animals and so much more. “We look for things we enjoy,” says Tami Staker, the chief finder of fun stuff (and co-owner) of Whimzy.
The independent toy store opened last September in Lakeville, and it caters to children from newborns to middle schoolers, with a healthy selection of active and imaginative play toys, fidget and sensory toys, puzzles and other delights. “We curate our own selection, and you won’t find it at [big box stores or major retailers],” Staker says.
When it comes to finding fun, Staker is an expert. She and her husband, Tom Staker, first opened Whimzy in Albert Lea, Minnesota, in 2017, and they began to notice that the store attracted loyal customers from a wide area. Twin Cities’ customer visits were so common that they inspired the second Whimzy store in Lakeville.
At both locations of Whimzy, shoppers find unusual toys that aren’t widely distributed. For example, it carries Djeco children’s products, which are award-winning toys designed in Paris by internationally acclaimed artists.
The store also features a large selection from Omaha, Nebraska-based Fat Brain Toy Company, which specializes in colorful toys designed to teach problem solving and fine-motor skills. “The toy we order the most and in the largest quantities is a Fat Brain stacking and twirling toy that instills a sense of wonder as kids watch it twirl and spin,” Staker says. “I’ve seen some big smiles on parents’ faces as they play, too.”
Another Fat Brain toy that Staker recommends is SpillAgain. The toy consists of a tower that’s filled with 16 balls, which “spill” once a button is pushed and a timer goes off. “SpillAgain is the greatest toy ever if you want to get back at an uncle,” she says.
While Whimzy’s selection/collection is dissimilar to what you might see in a box store, it shares some similarities to other specialty toy stores throughout the country. “We belong to a toy-buying group with other really excellent toy stores,” Staker says. “We go to the same conventions, and we meet and greet the same vendors. At the end of the day, we all spend more than we should.”
Since COVID-19, Staker has noticed a change in what toys customers are looking for. “We got in tune with being screen free,” Staker says. “That means sensory toys, toys you can touch with your hands. Family game nights also came back, bringing board and interactive games into the spotlight.”
It’s an inventory that brings joy to customers of all ages. Staker says, “We’ve had some sourpusses come into the store, but they leave happy campers. Besides, how can you be unhappy in a toy store?”
It’s also hard to be unhappy in a store that encourages playful interactions throughout its space. “Kids experience what we have, as a lot of our stuff is already on the floor,” Staker says. “They play, sit and smile, which are the best things ever.”