Pretending part of being a kid
Hilary Desmond believes in the power of play, or what she calls the core of her business model for Pretend Park City, a new play space for children with an adult-friendly twist.
Pretend Park City is based on Desmond’s own experiences with her children, encountering a handful of businesses that catered to parents by offering a play space where they could relax and enjoy free Wi-Fi or play alongside their children. Pretend Park City does just that.
"We wanted this to be a place where you can use your imagination," Desmond said. "That’s the point."
"I love being around kids," she added, "but here I’m also running my own business and I like that balance."
With six play spaces catering to all types of imaginations, Desmond created the business to serve children six years old and younger. Pretend Park City has a kitchen and market, an art room, a room just for those learning to crawl and a theater where children can play dress up. All "low-tech" options were designed and are continuing to improve as Desmond receives feedback from parents to foster imagination, to remove children from a busy world of computer activities, television screens and handheld devices.
And when it came to catering to parents, Desmond said she carved out a unique niche for the business, offering a lounge, Internet, books and magazines. She plans to include lectures and speakers.
"Every now and then you wanted to go out and do something that was around other adults, around other parents," Desmond said. "It felt like the options that were available were either Starbucks or in a place that was very child-friendly but not very adult-friendly.
"Here, you can hang out, meet other adults, learn about other activities in the area and have something to do."
Desmond offers amenities for parents, from coffee to a parent "hang out space," an important part of the business. She hopes to add play-date days, book clubs and lectures, all with the intent to get parents connected.
"We’re trying to cater to the parents as well," Desmond said. "Maybe you’re new in the area and are looking for other parents. Maybe you feel like you need to leave the house but want to get work done. This is a way for parents to do that. Maybe you’re a tourist and you didn’t bring a suitcase of toys."
Children gravitate to their favorite room, each branded with its own features. A mother might be helping her toddler at an easel in one room, while in another room a child might be building an elaborate tower out of blocks. The toys are classics, the rooms are bright and clean and Desmond is continuing to add.
As a mother herself, Desmond said her proudest moments on the job are watching the children coming through the doors play. Even with just a week in business under her belt, she said she loves that feeling. When grandparents brought their granddaughter in for an afternoon, she remembered the growl as the little girl jumped out from behind a small stage declaring that she was a dragon.
"When the kids come in and start to play and see the different activities it is my favorite," Desmond said. "You see them get to be this cool creature, or a princess. They’re running around just having fun, the pure joy of kids being kids."
For now, most children are busy with summer activities but in time Desmond hopes to see more parents walk through the doors, including tourists. The business is a pay-per-play visit where parents can opt to pay for every visit or buy a bundle of visits. Shoes are removed at the door, socks are required and guardians are required.
"We want to tailor this business to what parents and children want," she added. "People seem to be excited. Anytime a new business offers something for kids to do, parents see that as a good thing."
Pretend Park City
1811 Sidewinder Drive, Ste 101
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Park City leaders on Thursday will likely hold a special meeting to consider an idea crafted by Main Street businesses to close the street to traffic on Sundays in the summer and early fall in favor of a pedestrian zone.