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New 'toybrary' in Rochester to give parents a chance to say 'yes' to their kids

Pavitra Kumar is preparing to open Nana Gogo Toybrary to offer parents of children 5 and younger a chance to play with and take home toys without needing to buy them. She hopes to open the member service in northwest Rochester by late summer.

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ROCHESTER — Toys are serious business for Pavitra Kumar.

With the arrival of twin babies – a boy and a girl – at the start of the pandemic, Kumar and her husband have had their hands full keeping the children active and engaged.

“With that comes the whole challenge of figuring out what do your kids need at this age, at this size. They develop so fast, and they have so many needs, changing needs. Then they get bored of the toy in a day and you've already bought all this stuff,” she said.

That experience coupled with a desire to teach her children to value and take care of possessions as well as sharing led her to the idea of a toy library or a “toybrary.” She envisioned a place where member families could borrow toys and then return them.

The vision led her to create Nana Gogo Toybrary . The name comes from the nicknames of Kumar's twins.

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“The core of the concept is that this is your chance to say yes to your child for a change. You bring them to a warm, cozy place that's like a friend's house, except it has got a ton more toys to play with,” she said.

The toys and the play environment are for children between 6 months old and 5 years old.

“This is the age when they are developing leaps and bounds,” she said. “There aren’t many spaces around here geared just for little kids.”

With the help of Rochester Realtor Patrick Sexton of Paramark Real Estate Services, Kumar has signed a lease to start her new project in a 3,000-square-foot space at 2300 Superior Drive Northwest. That’s the former home of Hair Studio 52, which recently closed .

While Nana Gogo already has families signing up for memberships, the hope is to open the doors of Rochester’s new toybrary by late summer.

Nana Gogo will offer different levels of monthly memberships for families to borrow from the collection of more than 600 toys on a weekly or bi-weekly basis and then exchange them as often as they want. Once returned, the toys will be sanitized as well as repaired, if needed.

Parents can also buy daily play passes for children to play with the toys at Nana Gogo. Kumar plans to host classes, workshops and events at the toybrary.

Nana Gogo will also be available for birthday parties and other celebrations.

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In addition to offering children access to a wider variety of toys, Kumar said a toybrary reduces the number of toys ending up in garage dumps as well as saving families money and cutting clutter.

“An average American family with two children spends about $750 on toys a year. And that's a lot. A lot of that is concentrated in the first five years,” she said.

Jeff Kiger tracks business action in Rochester and southeastern Minnesota every day in "Heard on the Street." Send tips to jkiger@postbulletin.com or via Twitter to @whereskiger . You can call him at 507-285-7798.

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Jeff Kiger writes a daily column, "Heard on the Street," in addition to writing articles about local businesses, Mayo Clinic, IBM, Hormel Foods, Crenlo and others. He has worked in Rochester for the Post Bulletin since 1999. Readers can reach Jeff at 507-285-7798 or jkiger@postbulletin.com.
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