“My husband and I always wanted to have our own business,” says Lisa Tabers, co-owner and operator of Play & Company, located in Hidenwood Shopping Center. “Our 2,500-square-foot indoor play center provides a childcare service and helps to connect the community. We want to encourage children to grow through play while parents meet and enjoy each other’s company,” says Tabers.
With the purchase of a playpass/ticket, children have access to a variety of toys and playstations. An adult must accompany each child and is encouraged to play with his/her child. Fifteen to 20 percent of these adults are grandparents. The café offers free Wi-Fi, drinks, magazines, snacks and tables. “A group of mothers meets every Wednesday and visits in the café while their children play,” says Tabers.
The business opened in January. “In the middle of a blizzard,” says Tabers. “Actually the bad weather helped and we had a great first week.” The location was just “concrete and studs” when they rented the space. The design company won a merit award for the resulting new space. “We chose this location,” says Tabers, “because there were no nearby competing facilities. However, there are lots of kid-friendly fast-food restaurants which attract the clientele we want.”
The center welcomes children from six months to 10 years. There is a “toddler” area for children three years or under. Older children can climb and slide within a large enclosed “cage.” There are books, games, a Lego board, a rug imprinted with “roads” for cars and a “kitchen area.” Socks are required, preferably those with grippers.
Safety and cleanliness are of paramount importance to Tabers. Security cameras are mounted in several locations. A split screen at the front desk shows all of the camera views. There is also zero tolerance for bullying or any other unkind behavior. “We want a safe and fun environment,” says Tabers. There is also a strict illness policy. Tabers provides a clean and germ-free space for all.
Play & Company hosts parties, especially birthday parties. The birthday child can invite up to 30 children plus up to 40 adults. Parties are held on Saturdays with three times available. Staff members assist with setup and cleanup. The party can be simple or fancy. A cake can be brought in or supplied. A large TV is available for videos. Outside food and decorations are also allowed. “Our parties have been very successful,” says Tabers.
Tabers is very family oriented. Originally from Nashville, Tennessee, she went to Belmont College there, where she majored in sociology and minored in business. She and her co-owner husband Matt moved to San Francisco to work for Mars Candy. “We had had enough after one year,” she says. “It was too expensive!” They chose to relocate in Newport News, where her sister lives. Now her parents have moved here. Family members help out when needed, particularly at parties. A part-time employee, Mesha Galligan, is the “party guru,” according to Tabers.
Earlier this year Tabers participated in the Facebook Community Boost in Hampton Roads. She was on a panel with three other small businesses, discussing how Facebook can help grow small businesses. “I was pleased that I was able to overcome my fear of public speaking and speak to 300 people,” says Tabers. After that program, she was interviewed on the local CBS channel morning show. “We received a lot of positive feedback from these appearances,” she says. “Most of our business comes from Facebook,” she adds. She has 2,000 followers. Tabers also maintains a blog on her website.
Play & Company hosts parties for its clientele. Upcoming will be Christmas and New Year’s parties. Recently Tabers started classes for children five and younger to teach motor skills and “make believe,” says Tabers.
Tabers has ideas for the future. “We would like to provide a small outdoor play area. And, we plan additional locations,” she says. Also upcoming will be a kids’ cooking class, “Toddler Time,” a preschool fair and special topics for parents only.
Tabers is mother to four-year-old daughter, Vivian. “When Vivian is here, she is our official greeter,” says Tabers. Her husband often travels and sometimes mother and daughter travel with him. “Next year we are planning to visit London and France. Future travel plans center around exploring Virginia,” she says. As co-owner, Matt provides ideas and serves as handyman. “Organization and decorating are my main strengths,” he says.
Many of Play & Company’s clients, some of whom are military families, come from Virginia Beach, Gloucester, Williamsburg and Suffolk.
Plans are under way to develop a partnership with the Christopher Newport University teaching degree program, offering practical experience. Tabers is excited about her business’s possibilities. “It has been a great year for us.”
TO THE POINT:
Play & Company
Address: 11 Hidenwood Shopping Center, Newport News, VA 23606
Contact: Lisa and Matt Tabers