A Toy Library Opens in Falls Church
After weeks of pandemic delays, The Toy Nest is cautiously opening up shop.
Starting a business is hard. Starting a first-of-its-kind business is harder. Starting a first-of-its-kind business during a pandemic—now that’s a challenge.
Somehow, Lisa Bourven managed to do it. Nearly two months after her intended grand opening, the Falls Church resident and mother of two was finally able to open the physical location of The Toy Nest, a membership-based “toy library” at 98 N. Washington St. (next to Thompson Italian), where parents can rent baby gear, games, ride-on toys and more. It opened its doors on June 19.
“I don’t have anything to compare it to,” Bourven says of her first business launch. “I set up an online catalog with a photo and piece count for every toy months in advance. I am so glad I did that, because I was able to pivot, make toys reservable online, and open my business even though the physical doors weren’t open.”
That’s how The Toy Nest got its unofficial start in March, as a place where parents—with their kids sheltering-at-home alongside them—could search for items to keep tots entertained, with toys available for delivery and curbside pickup. The latter service is still available for those hesitant to enter the brick-and-mortar location, though the shop is taking extra safety precautions now that it’s open for browsing.
The 2,100-square-foot space can fit 50, but Bourven is currently only allowing two families inside at time. All toys are disinfected between uses and handled according to CDC recommendations, and Bourven says she is closely watching the county’s Covid-19 case numbers before increasing capacity. For the time being, she is also asking visitors to wear masks and not test out the toys they’re looking to rent.
Eventually, The Toy Nest will expand beyond toy rentals. Bourven says she hopes her start-up will one day host parties, potentially buy gently used toys from families that no longer need/want them, and also serve as a play place where tots and parents can connect.
“I feel like as parents we get really distracted by the day to day, thinking about the laundry we have to do and other to-do list items,” she says, “and so it’s hard when we are in our homes to connect with our kids and get down and play with them. My hope is that here, we can disconnect with our chores and discover things that make our kids tick and help foster their development in that way.”
What happens if your child falls in love with a toy, or—even though members receive a fold-out storage bag for borrowed items—it gets lost? All toys have a “Love it or Lose it” price that’s always less than retail.
The Toy Nest offers a point-based membership system, with each toy valued at a certain number of points, on a scale from one to five. (One point is roughly equivalent to $20 in retail value.) “Fledgling” members can borrow up to five points-worth of items each month and score 10% off party bookings for $30/month, or $300/year. “Flock” members can pick up to 10 points-worth of items each month and score 15% off party bookings for $45/month, or $480/year.
Every membership purchased includes a matching membership for an area family that meets federal free- and reduced-price lunch requirements. Members enjoy unlimited play visits, can keep items for up to two weeks and renew those items twice, depending on demand. Members also can give out two guest play passes.
“I’ve seen a few reviews come in, and one comment I got was about an [unanticipated] benefit of the point system, which is that it’s teaching kids to budget” Bourven says. “Parents and kids will look at the toys online and the kids have to decide how they want to use their points. They’re learning how to share, too, since they have to give the toys back after two weeks. Both of those things are tough lessons for kids.”
Additional offerings include a $35 House Party package, through which individuals can rent 10 points-worth of toys for a weeklong birthday celebration—especially one that’s themed.
Once the space is fully open, a $10 play plass will provide admission to anyone wanting to use the play space. And for a one-time fee of $15, non-members can do some drop-in borrowing—ideal for grandparents in the area whose visiting grandkids could use some toys to play with.
This very experience is partly what inspired Bourven to open The Toy Nest. She had an issue finding toys to keep her kids engaged when she took them to visit her parents in Texas a few years ago. Before that, while living in France to pursue her master’s degree, she realized just how much is consumed and ultimately wasted here in the United States.
“I want to see us move away from always consuming,” she says, “to us using our existing resources better and sharing what we have in an equitable way.”