Upper Westside Play Gym just won a Totally Awesome Award for Ideal Indoor Play Space in Portland. We recently spoke to them about their experience as a business owner, the best advice they’ve ever received and more. Hear what they have to say below!
Red Tricycle: Your community recently voted you “Most Ideal Indoor Play Space” – what do your customers value most about your business?
Upper Westside Play Gym: Of all the feedback we get from community members, the most common praise revolves around how clean, safe, and enjoyable a space it can be for young children [and their adults] to spend time. Families love the music and language classes, our regular entertainers with Mr. Hoo, Red Yarn, and Micah & Me, Baby Boot Camp classes, the Martial Arts classes, but also less structured activities such as Open Play or the Parent Support Group Meetups. We also host a mean birthday party! The Play Gym is very intentionally scaled to promote exploratory play for littles with high-quality sensory and gymnastics play equipment, and also lends itself well to adult socialization as well. With young children, a lot of learning revolves around moving through various “stations,” creating their own play spaces by moving equipment around, and negotiating “sharing.” The adults are on hand to help when needed, but at the same time can just sit back and relax. It’s a very comfortable space!
RT: What do you want people to know about your business that they don’t already know?
UWPG: We offer SO MUCH terrific programing, subscribing to our monthly newsletter or our Facebook Page is the very best way to keep on top of all the wonderful events that happen in any given month at Upper Westside.
RT: How did your business get started and what was the motivation?
UWPG: We [my husband and I are co-owners of all three legs of our business] taught movement in Portland Public Schools for years before opening our storefront seven years ago with Southwest Portland Martial Arts and CrossFit Hillsdale. Our Kid’s Martial Arts program experienced long wait lists, so we decided to expand and open the Play Gym last year to offer movement for kids as young as three. As longtime educators and Martial Artists (over 20 years each my husband and I)…we saw a huge need for a “play-based” movement space for littles in our community as well.
RT: Tell us, what do you start your morning with: 1. coffee 2. tea 3. mimosa 4. water 5. all of the above.
UWPG: I start every day waking our daughter up with gentle rubs. Best part of my day! That’s her sitting in my lap in the photo above.
RT: What is the most awesome thing a customer has ever done for you?
UWPG: One of our customers sits on a board for a foundation that supports people with disabilities, and urged us to apply for a grant to outfit the gym with soundproofing so that children who are sensitive to sound would be comfortable in the space. She knew that one of our goals was to make the Gym as “inclusive” a space as possible. We were awarded the grant, and another parent donated their contacting business time with installing the panels. Our community members blow me away on a daily basis though…there are so many children and invested family/community members that are the true heart of Upper Westside.’
RT: What is your biggest pet peeve as a business owner?
UWPG: Runaway crackers!
RT: How do you keep your stress levels down?
UWPG: Teaching Martial Arts to young children keeps me active and laughing. By the end of a run of classes, I find myself relaxed and smiling…no matter the circumstances leading up to class.
RT: What’s your secret superhero power as a business owner?
UWPG: Decades of working with children has left me with a killer toolbox for helping families leave the Gym feeling good.
RT: Tell us, what is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received (as a parent or business owner)?
RT: How about the worst piece of advice you’ve ever received?
UWPG: We’ve been urged by outside businesses to raise our prices. The fact is that we are a small customer-service based mom-n-pop run business, focused on offering quality instruction. It just doesn’t make sense to us to tie families into contracts or charge for services they aren’t able to use.
Check out their website here
Photo credit: Nhem Photo