Mandy Wroolie takes “play local” to a whole new level as owner of MiniSota Play Cafe, where kids can enjoy an indoor play “town,” which features Minnesota-related elements.
Welcome to the City of MiniGrove on the playful shores of Lake MiniTonka and home to Clearwater Cleaners for dirty toys and Infant Grove Heights, a baby play area. Look for more businesses to “move in” to the town, as Wroolie is partnering with local businesses for sponsorships of some of the “stores.”
Independent free play is the name of the game in this town, but staff is on hand and encouraged to help kids make crafts, play games or whip up a batch of MiniSota putty. “We try our best to ensure everyone has fun, whatever fun means for them, on that day, at that moment,” Maple Grove's Wroolie says.
Like any town worth its weight, there are beverages and snacks on hand. Peace Coffee, signature lattes, Rishi tea, tea lattes, smoothies, bottled drinks and more are available, as are a range of healthy, allergen-aware prepackaged snacks. “We are planning to expand our snack selection to include some baked goods and more light lunch options later this year,” Wroolie says.
Just like Maple Grove, MiniGrove features special events. Movie by the Lake is typically offered from 5–7:30 p.m. on Fridays. A special feature is shown on the wall by Lake MiniTonka. Each family gets its own table, craft kit and pizza. Kids can opt to sit at the table, relax near the lake or take an “intermission” and go play. Events are also held for New Year’s Eve, Valentine's Day, Halloween and other themed family nights. “Probably my favorite thing we do is Cafe with a Cause,” Wroolie says. "The community can gather to support a family with a child with a life-threatening illness.”
Wroolie had to pivot when the pandemic wreaked havoc on businesses. One of the features offered at MiniSota Play is a play bin, specially created to keep kids occupied with various themes and sensory elements. “After we were shut down for a week, my amazing manager, Cassie, told me we should make some bins to sell,” Wroolie says. “... People loved them, so we started selling multiple sizes, themes of sensory bins.” Putty kits, craft kits, T-shirts and other fun items are available from the online store.
Previously located in Champlin for two years, the Maple Grove venue opened in January 2020. “Now we've landed in what I believe is the absolute best location we could ask for ...," she says.
Clean as a Whistle
All are welcome to visit MiniGrove—except germs. When building out the venue, care was taken in what materials were used. For example, it features polished concrete floors “because, well, kids are gross—that's just a fact,” Wroolie says. “With these floors, we're able to clean anything up with bleach and have it dry in the matter of a couple of minutes.” In terms of toys, “Our litmus test for every single toy is, ‘Can it be cleaned and is it durable?’ We don't use felt or fabric toys. We use hard plastic and wood.”
Toys are washed multiple times a day in a high-temperature sanitizing dishwasher. Staff also employs a sani-sprayer, which emits a plant-based, food-grade safe mist. “We try to use as least amount of chemicals as possible, but sometimes they're just necessary,” Wroolie says.