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The Den: Not your average toy store!

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The Den is a toy store with a mission to play. They have an adorable play area with 3 vignettes designed to delight any child. Elise Fox is the owner and her husband Larry Fox helps to run the business. Elise is a schoolteacher at Brook Village Early Childhood Center and teaches Pre-K. “It has been on our hearts to open a business in town for a while. Larry was a schoolteacher also and taught junior high school, but last year we made the decision for him to not go back because of some health issues. We really didn’t know what we wanted to do. My parents live in the Metroplex, and we had gone and visited several toy stores down there; and it just came to us that our town doesn’t have anything like that. So, that is the direction we went in, and with both of us being educators, we realize how very important it is for play—for kids to play, and that is how we got into it,” Elise said.

“We got the building in November of 2018 and opened in February 2019,” she said. The play areas had to be 8 built along with all the shelves and tables, and Larry took charge of that. “It was really important for me to give the kids an opportunity to play while their parents are shopping or when they come in. Ultimately our goal is to grow into more and have more places to play. We started with a school and a vet clinic. We have taken it upon ourselves to try to tie into other local businesses in our area,” she explained.

The vet clinic is called the Caring Heart Vet Center. There is a corner beside the vet center with skyscrapers that is populated with several bright child sized Tyrannosaurus Rexes, and the school has recently been replaced with a mini Highlanders restaurant. “They were gracious enough to give us signs, and we have menus in there and other things that you would find at the Highlander,” including a tiny booth, a kitchen, and stained-glass windows.

“We encourage people to bring in their kids to play. It doesn’t cost anything, and we know it is like a million degrees outside. We are air conditioned, so come and enjoy our play spot; and come see what we have. Groups of mothers have scheduled play dates to bring in their children at no cost, and the kids love having someplace new and comfortable to play.

And, of course, the toys are unique and interesting. “We have a wide range. We try to do from infant to the older kids. We have science experiment toys, and slime is very popular with the teenagers, too. We found some cool slime that you mix it together in less than a minute and it comes in its own container by Steve Spangler,” she shared. Spangler is a scientist and professional speaker turned toy maker. His toys are imaginative and entertaining. She also found some slime from him that you can mold, and it will dry and create one of a kind sculptures or “art pieces.”

Many of their toys they import are from Europe. Elise says that they are very well made and will last for years to come. “They do not break in a couple of weeks. We have some really cute plush dolls from France that are called Kindness Dolls. They encourage kids to do random acts of kindness. They have little tokens in a bag and every time they do a random act of kindness, they leave a little token behind,” she said with a smile. She has a huge selection of Melissa & Doug toys. These types of toys are made out of wood. “Safety is a big thing and because I teach and we get a lot of teachers that come in as well, we have to be able to say that it isn’t going to fall apart, and your kids aren’t going to get hurt. And that is why when we look for toys, we have often stuck to wood type toys. They are safe for any age and in any atmosphere that they would be in. They are also nontoxic and easy to clean,” she stressed. Other toys they carry include ‘Two Bros Bows’ designed by two bored brothers at a craft show. They are bows and arrows with the point of the arrow having a protective ball on it, and it comes with a target. It was one of our first finds.”

There are old fashioned toys and modern toys and Legos. “In fact, we have a huge table of them in the store where you can buy them by the pound, and they are loose. They are $10 a pound. We do have some box sets, but the loose Legos are the favorites. And then we have a whole table of mini figures, that they can buy them or can come in and make their own for $2.50,” Elise said. There are hundreds of tiny Lego people parts that they can choose from. “That has brought a lot of people in besides kids. We have a lot of adults in looking for Legos. My husband had to start a Lego club for his adult friends because they were coming in so often, so they meet here,” she said smiling. The club members pick themed projects. Someone picked Batman vs. Superman, and my husband did a pirate scene; and we displayed them at the front of the store so everybody can come and see them. The current project that they are working on is doing recognizable buildings from Wichita Falls. Someone is doing the Farmer’s Market, another did the Wichita Theatre, and Larry is doing the Hotter N’ Hell.”

Elise would also like to do birthday buckets for kids. A birthday bucket is where the child picks out what he would like and puts it in a bucket. This makes it easy for friends invited to the party to get something for the birthday boy or girl that will surely be loved. And it also makes it easy on the parents.

Prices in the toy store start at $2.50 and there is also A Little Library where children can come and get a free book. “We have something for everyone. I want people to come and buy quality toys, and they don’t have to get a movie character toy”, Elise smiled. “They can come in and buy something educational that is also fun to play with. I want them to know that there is somewhere else to buy toys besides Target and Walmart. Come check out what we have done and let your children play”.

-Cindy Kahler Thomas