ANN ARBOR, MI – Amber Bowman had no idea she would be invited to open her own toy store when she started looking for new toys for her daughter.
Bowman, 38, is the founder and owner of Prism Playgoods, an Ann Arbor toy store aimed at providing open-ended wooden toys – toys that don’t have a specific function and can be played in different ways.
Bowman found open toys after the birth of her youngest, Lively, 14 months old. She said she wanted to be intentional with the toys she bought for her children.
Bowman, a former elementary school music teacher, said she came up with the idea after seeing her two children, Lively and Sawyer – born 10 years apart – playing with the same toys in different ways .
“Literally, every item I brought in for her, Sawyer was obsessed with,” Bowman said.
Bowman took maternity leave just as schools began closing due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, but ultimately quit her job. She launched Prism Playgoods on March 29, about a year after the birth of her youngest child.
Bowman said she has always had kid-centric jobs, so opening a toy store was “a natural fit” for her.
Prism Playgoods offers a variety of wooden, soft, and sensory toys, as well as arts and craft supplies.
“I wanted her to sell LEGOz, too,” said Sawyer, 11.
While there is no LEGO, Prism Playgoods does offer “specific toys in the store that were Sawyer’s choices,” such as a series of plastic dragons, Bowman said.
Bowman’s partner Ellen Williams, 33, said she was motivated to open the store after seeing Bowman’s reaction to new toys.
“I could see how excited and passionate Amber was about toys,” Williams said.
While Bowman manages the content and the creative side of the store, Williams created the website and serves as technical support and delivery person for the Ann Arbor area.
“Totally, completely my idea, but I couldn’t have done it without Ellen’s help,” Bowman said. “She’s my super support.”
In addition to providing open-ended toys, Prism Playgoods is also dedicated to transporting inclusive toys, such as dolls in a variety of skin tones.
“We want the toys we carry to look like our world,” Bowman said.
Bowman also appreciates the beauty of wooden toys, saying that “they don’t look like the typical mess of children.”
Liisa Lusk, a mother of three, said she liked the toys to be “neatly organized”.
“It’s the opposite of the spectrum of an unboxing toy,” Lusk said.
Lusk bought his children, ages 5, 9 and 11, each a set of the Big Little Pocket Pals Craft Kit.
“Not only was the end result a charming and cute little sultry, but they made it themselves,” Lusk said.
There has been a learning curve to opening a toy store, Bowman said. She initially wanted to price her products – which range from $ 5.50 to $ 178 – more competitively, but found she was limited by the manufacturer’s requirements.
Bowman and Williams are hoping Prism Playgoods, named as a nod to their LGBTQ family, can grow to fill a void left by the closure of Learning Express, a toy store previously located in Westgate Mall in Ann Arbor. .
“We love the idea of being connected to the community,” said Williams.
Prism Playgoods is currently only available online. Find the site here.
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