By Kristi OHarran, Herald Columnist
What could be more solitary than dropping by a toy store in January?
December numbers are logged. Good stuff is picked over from half-off Christmas clearance sales.
There are no toy-buying holidays until Valentine’s Day.
But there are exceptions to every perception.
At Rowdy Rascals Toy Store Thursday, customers came and went in a steady flow. The co-owner, Debbie Baillie, was bubbly about the business at 1020 First St. in Snohomish.
“Christmas was our best ever,” she said.
Baillie, who owns the store with her sister, Susan Baillie, an emergency veterinarian, said she aimed to create an old-fashioned toy shop in 2007.
“It’s like you are in my living room,” she said. “It’s no problem if you don’t buy anything. Come in. Sit. Play.”
The sisters were raised in South Africa. The family moved to Los Angeles, Calif., when their father was transferred with his job for Nestle.
Baillie was 18.
A perfect time for her to hit the Hollywood stage — her dream.
“I stuck my toe in,” she said. “Unless you make it, it’s a horrendous life.”
She earned a degree in nature and culture at the University of California at Davis. The single woman loves to travel and is a gourmet cook.
The family moved to Washington in 2006 and Baillie worked at a bank.
She didn’t like the job.
Rowdy Rascals was born.
“Snohomish deserves a good, quality toy store,” Baillie said. “We love it here. We love the small town, country feel.”
She goes to toy shows to find products and stocks favorites such as pick-up sticks and the classic children’s book “Goodnight Moon” by author Margaret Wise Brown.
Allison Molsee of Lake Stevens found the store as a customer. Her father bought a gift there for Molsee’s two children.
“It was a neat, new toy store,” Molsee said. “I brought my kids in. We felt very welcome. It’s a happy place.”
Now Molsee works at the store. She showed me a best-seller puzzle game called Kanoodle; Ravensburger puzzles and games from Germany; popular Snap Caps that were featured on “The View”; and a wonderful wooden, magnetic responsibility chart where parents can note their children’s accomplishments in making their bed and whining less.
They also have toy trucks, baby dolls and coloring books.
The staff gets to know customer’s kids. Elena Pullen-Venema from Snohomish dropped by the store to chat about an upcoming birthday party for a soon-to-be 5 year old.
Baillie swept around the shop, describing several toys and their potential entertainment value to occupy little hands at a Saturday party.
“She is committed to toy safety,” Pullen-Venema said about Baillie. “She knows my kids. I like to support local businesses.”
Baillie, 40, said customers find the destination shop from all over. It was voted top 5 for “Best of Western Washington for Children’s Gifts” at KING-TV.
I spied a Playmobil medical clinic I may get for a 4-year-old’s birthday in April. It costs $179 in Snohomish.
Back at work, I checked on it: It’s the same price, $179, at Amazon.com. Shoppers in Snohomish aren’t also charged for shipping and handling.
That’s another benefit to small-town shopping.
Kristi O’Harran: 425-339-3451, firstname.lastname@example.org.