Jan St. George has been bringing joy to families for nearly two decades at Whiz Kids, a specialty toy store that carries a variety of books, games, puzzles and plush animals in downtown Spokane.
St. George, a former paralegal, joined Whiz Kids as a part-time employee in 2005. Five years later, she purchased the toy store located on the third floor of River Park Square.
After more than 12 years as owner of Whiz Kids, St. George has retired and sold the toy store to mother-and-daughter duo Kathleen and Julia Lara.
The Laras, who also own children’s boutique French Toast - Mama & Mini in Kendall Yards, assumed ownership of Whiz Kids on April 1.
“They are going to be wonderful and they are going to have such success,” St. George said. “It’s really exciting.”
The Laras were contemplating expansion of French Toast - Mama & Mini in January when a toy sales representative who also worked with St. George mentioned that Whiz Kids might be for sale, Julia Lara said.
“.She casually brought up that Jan might be interested in retiring and asked if we would be interested in taking over,” Julia Lara said. “At first we thought, ‘I don’t know. That seems like a really big undertaking.’ But then it just happened really, really fast and seemed like a really good fit.”
“We started to see that we share a lot of similar products and a customer base,” Kathleen Lara said. “Jan wanted to find somebody local. She’s put her heart into this store and she really wants to make sure that it’s well taken care of. She met with Julia and loved her and it just went from there.”
The store will continue to operate as Whiz Kids. The Laras are planning to modernize the toy store by introducing online ordering for shipment and in-store pickup. Online orders are to launch in September, Julia Lara said.
The Laras are also looking to boost the store’s toy selection.
“We want to bring in some unique brands that you can’t find anywhere else in town,” Julia Lara said. “We always have a joke at French Toast – if you saw it on Pinterest or Instagram, you probably will find it in our store. So we want to bring some of that energy here.”
The store will continue to carry science-themed toys, which are popular among customers, Kathleen Lara added.
“We really want to encourage everybody to come out and see all the fun stuff that we are going to do,” Julia Lara said. “As summer and fall progress, I think people who have been shopping here for years are going to be excited to see some of the small tweaks that we’re making.”
St. George, who is looking forward to enjoying more free time during retirement, said a rewarding aspect of owning Whiz Kids was getting to know families.
St. George added she’s grateful for the community’s support of Whiz Kids throughout the years.
“The support from day one has been spectacular,” she said. “It was just one of those really exciting things – when (customers) loved Whiz Kids and they came back. The loyalty factor was huge.”Amy Edelen can be reached at (509) 459-5581 or at email@example.com.