The Dilly Dally toy store in Vancouver feels like a clubhouse. Just inside the front door is a jumble of multicoloured balls. The aisles-extra-wide so parents can manoeuvre strollers-are lined with shelves stocked with multilingual blocks, wooden toys and stuffed animals. At the back, there's space for kids to test out pencils and crayons, and pin their art on the walls.
The store's 33-year-old owners, Claire Hutchings and Tyler Quantz, wanted to build a space where kids could "create, build, imagine and dream" (their slogan is "Inspiring play" ). To achieve that, they spent two years meticulously planning every detail. "We knew what we wanted the place to feel like-the atmosphere, the products," says Hutchings. "There's a reason for everything in the store."
The couple's first venture, Six Acres, a whimsical bar in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, was a little less scientific. Their mission then was to simply create a place where their friends would want to hang out. It worked - but mostly they just got lucky. "One thing we learned from Six Acres is exactly what we're good at and what we're not good at," says Hutchings. "We aren't graphic designers or bookkeepers or reno experts. To actually bring in experts, you can get so much further, so much faster."
The 1,800-square-foot shop is nestled on a block that includes sushi, shoes and a yoga studio. With the help of a retail consultant, Hutchings and Quantz looked at numerous spaces before settling on this one. It required a reno (the whole venture was underpinned by a bank loan, backed by family to garner a lower interest rate), but the area had the right mix of higher-income families, traffic and complementary businesses.
"We didn't feel there was a toy store that spoke to our generation and approach to life," says Hutchings. Their next move is to launch an e-commerce toy site to sell their "hidden gems" across Canada.
This story was first published in the November, 2010 issue of Your Business magazine.