A Play Space For Tots

By Dirk Perrefort The News-Times, Danbury, Conn.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) After a career in the mortgage industry, Dalia Simoes decided to take a stab at female business ownership. This mompreneur has launched a unique play center which includes a variety of stations, such as a grocery store, a veterinarian's office, a workshop, a beauty salon and even a diner where kids can put their imagination to work. BROOKFIELD

While staying home with her three young children a few years back, local entrepreneur Dalia Simoes discovered that there wasn't much do to in the area with her kids in the afternoon.

Simoes, who had decided to put her career in the mortgage industry aside to stay home with her kids, said there were plenty of activity centers in the region designed for older, school-aged children, but nothing that was exclusively geared for the under-5 crowd. So she decided to create her own. About three years ago Simoes opened Tot Town, which sits off Federal Road about half a mile north of Costco.

"Little kids always love doing the activities they see their parents involved in," she said. "My idea was to bring a little town designed just for young children indoors."

The play center includes a variety of stations, such as a grocery store, a veterinarian's office, a workshop, a beauty salon and even a diner where kids can put their imagination to work. The center also includes an indoor playground as well as a snack room and an arts and crafts room and offers customized party packages.

"There really are a lot of great areas for imaginative play," said Cindy Capizzi, a Brookfield resident who regularly brings her two young daughters to Tot Town. "The girls really love it here."

Unlike other centers in the area, Capizzi said she loves Tot Town because she knows her children won't get "run over" by older children.

"It's great to have something around that's geared for younger kids," she said. "And the snack room is great because the girls can bring their lunch and then go back to play. We can spend the whole day here if we like. Now my daughter begs me to come here."

Simoes said that Tot Town also offers a unique birthday party experience compared to other venues in the Danbury area. Simoes said they can tailor any party to meet the needs and the themes provided by the parents -- from a full desert table to face painting, glitter parties, craft parties and just about anything else.

"It's something that sets us apart from the competition," she said. "Because we have no electronic devices such as video games, Tot Town is also very sensory friendly, which can be very important to the parents of children with special needs."

Simoes said she's had special-needs play groups at the center in the past, and would host a similar group if there was interest from organizations or clubs in the community. Discounts for groups of five or more children would apply, she said.

The cost for the center is $9 for the first child and $7 for each additional child with no limit on the amount of time that a family can stay at the facility.

"It may sound funny, but one of the things I noticed when staying home with my children was the need for social interaction with adults," she said. "Tot Town is a great place for parents to come together for some social interaction while their children have a great time."

Simoes said she may decide to franchise or open other locations in the future.

"Almost every day I get someone asking if we'll open another location in their town," she said. "For now we are focused on making it work in Brookfield. But you never know what the future brings."

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