Tag Archives: Kazoodles

Best of Clark County? Right Here on East Mill Plain

We were grateful and excited to be named Best of Clark County by readers of The Columbian. We were doubly excited to see that eight BOCC awards and a runner-up are right here in our shopping center, Columbia Square. We’d like you to meet our outstanding neighbors. See if you can spot the phrase that pops up in every one of these.


Larson’s Bakery: Best Bakery/Desserts (four-time winner)

Fresh banana cake. If you haven’t tasted it, you’ve missed one of Vancouver’s culinary treasures. Larson’s Bakery has been making fresh banana cake and much, much more at this location for 27 years after moving up from the Bay Area. The small, family-owned business, led by Sue Wilson, gets super busy at Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter as folks line up for their cakes, pies, rolls and other goodies.

Larson’s also features a deli with sandwiches, soups and salads. For dessert? How do you choose?

Spanky’s: Best Consignment Shop (six-time winner), Best Clothing Values (four-time winner)

Rachel Phillips bought Spanky’s in 2009, carrying on the tradition of a good selection of fashionable, like-new clothing for kids, women and men. “It’s one stop for the whole family,” she said. “It’s still family-owned, so we provide that special touch.”

Spanky’s started in 1981, and one of the original three owners, Sandy Shepherd, is still general manager. Deanna Cook has worked there more than 25 years and Rhonda Thamert more than 18, so customers see familiar faces. They accept clothing either new within the last two years or very classic. “The cuteness factor goes a long way,” Phillips said. “It has to be in season, too.” The store also consigns home decor.

Mar’s Inn: Best Chinese (first-time winner)

Cantonese and Sichuan dishes from the south of China are the specialty at Mar’s Inn. Instead of Americanizing, “We try to translate what we really take from China,” explained Daisy Huang, who grew up in southern China. Cantonese focuses on stir fry, stews and steam, while Sichuan is a lot more spicy, she said.

The family-owned restaurant started in 1980 on Hawthorne in Portland, said Edward Mar, whose family has had as many as five restaurants but now owns one in Portland and the Vancouver Mar’s. Since opening here in 2008, it’s been a popular place for dining in or taking out.

Pho Green Papaya: Best Pho (first-time winner)

For a decade, Pho Green Papaya has been serving up Vietnamese comfort food. “Since it rains so often here, it’s nice to have a warm bowl of soup,” said Ann Chu, whose mother was born in Vietnam.

It’s mostly word-of-mouth that brings crowds of people to the family-owned restaurant. Besides pho — noodle soup laden with meat and vegetables that’s a street food in Vietnam — Pho Green Papaya serves vermicelli and noodle dishes, shredded salad, stir fries and a few other soups.

Chuck’s Produce: Best Grocery Store, Best Specialty Foods (two-time winner)

When Chuck’s Produce opened on 10/10/2010, grocery shopping in Vancouver changed. This local, independent, family-owned grocery strives to have the best prices in its huge produce department, with a unique selection of fruits and vegetables. If you don’t know what something is, ask a produce person to open it and give you a taste, said manager Larry Maresh.

But that’s only one part of the store. Local, healthy and organic are key words whether you’re shopping the grocery department, grabbing lunch at the from-scratch deli, satisfying your sweet tooth at the artisan bakery, seeking health and beauty products, or looking for hormone- and antibiotic-free meats. A gift shop is tucked in one corner, the Potting Shed fills with plants each spring, and free classes are offered regularly to help customers with healthful eating. Maresh’s team of 120 employees stands ready to serve.

Kazoodles: Best Hobby/Toy Store (three-time winner)

Providing the best classic and kid-powered toys since 2006, Kazoodles has been in this center for four years. The focus of this family-owned business is on getting kids into creative, active, imaginative, brain-boosting play. Kazoodles offers play tables where children can get their hands on many of the toys, help for bewildered grandparents, ideas for families of children with special needs, low-cost activities such as Storytime and Crafternoon, and free giftwrap.

Owners Bob and Mary Sisson have been active with the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association, putting them on the front lines with issues such as toy safety, the shop local movement, and choosing the best toys for child development and fun.

Craft Warehouse: Runner Up, Best Hobby/Toy Store

Headquartered in Camas, this small chain of eight craft stores has been at Columbia Square since 1997. “We’re family-owned, not that huge box store,” said Carol Shand, assistant manager. “When we do a category, we do it well.” She, the store manager, and half a dozen others have been at this Craft Warehouse since it opened.

“The staff is very knowledgeable,” she said. The store commits to having more staff so they’re available to help customers. Scrapbooking, jewelry making, quilting, framing, floral and home decor are some of the areas that spark customers’ creativity.


Now, about that phrase. Did you catch it? It’s “family-owned.” Every one of these businesses is owned by a family that cares deeply about our community and our customers. So next time you’re in the vicinity of 134th-136th and Mill Plain, stop by and be part of the family!





Magic of a Toy Store: It Comes From the Kids

We will never forget the first time a mom told us, “He woke up today saying, ‘I want to go to Kazoodles!’” That’s not just music to a shopkeeper’s ears, it’s a full symphony.

Then there was the boy who, with a full store of toys to explore, got in a cardboard box we’d just emptied and had all kinds of imaginary fun.

And Jacob, age 4, who kept bringing me games and asking, “Miss Mary, how do you play this?” I’d have to admit I didn’t know. Finally I told him, “Jacob, my kids are all grown and my husband works nights, so when I get home from work there’s no one to play with.” Jacob looked me in the eye and said, “Miss Mary, you need to make some friends!”

Mr. Duane, who recently retired, loved to bring his dog, Sally, to the store. (Sally’s a Folkmanis puppet, but don’t tell her that.) One day Sally and a little girl were having a nice chat at a play table. After awhile there was a puddle on the floor. The girl’s mom scolded her for having an accident. “I didn’t do it,” the girl insisted. “Sally did it!” In the end, we learned that another child had spilled a drink.

Sally likes to talk with kids who come to Kazoodles.

Sally likes to talk with kids who come to Kazoodles.

Sally played a role in an experience that still brings tears to our eyes. Sally, as usual, was chatting with 3-year-old Amber when suddenly Amber started screaming, “Puppy! Puppy!” Mr. Duane thought he’d scared her, especially when her parents came running, tears streaming down. “Mommy! Puppy!” Amber said over again. Mr. Duane had tears in his eyes, too, when he learned Amber has autism and those were the first words she’d ever said in her life. Even Sally was crying, he said.

The Doorbell House from Melissa & Doug played a role with another 3-year-old who had never spoken, his mom relayed. He loved that toy so much, he’d wake up in the morning talking about it.

It’s been gratifying to help kids with special needs find toys that make therapy fun or help them focus in the classroom. We love being a part of the lives of all Kazoodles kids, from searching out what they need for a class project to fulfilling those quirky interests kids can have.

Like the time a dad came in and said, “All my daughter wants for her birthday is a stuffed turkey.” It’s so much fun to say, “Yes, we have that!”

Every day is endlessly entertaining at Kazoodles as we eavesdrop on kids while they play. Thank you for sharing your greatest treasures, your children, with us. We hope we bring them as many wonderful, magical memories as they bring us.

Made in the Good Old USA

The Fourth of July got us looking around the store to see what’s Made in the USA. There’s a lot!

Lauri crepe puzzles, Tall-Stackers and Lacing Shapes. These are classic toddler toys.

Constructive Eating utensils and plates in construction or garden fairy themes that make eating fun! Made in Michigan.

Doodletown wooden vehicles made in Minnesota are the perfect first car for age 1+.

Do-a-Dots are a great way to start kids in art. They work like bingo daubers, keeping the paint confined in a tube. Made in California.


Wikki Stix are another creative gem. These wax-coated strands of yarn can be used to make 2-D or 3-D art. Made in Arizona.

Brick Stix enhance Lego play with stickers you can add to your bricks to create furniture, buildings, and more. Made in Wisconsin.

Marble Racers are cars that light up with an LED light as you play with them. Glow-in-the-dark tracks add to the fun. Made in California.


• What does an electrician do with all the little colored plastic snips that come off the wires? Invent the Find It game! You can search for a whole list of things hidden in each Find It. Made in Washington.

Pajaggle is made in Corvallis, Oregon. This game challenges your brain as you fit different shapes into their holes. It’s harder than it looks!

Uncle Goose makes traditional embossed baby blocks in a lot of different languages. They’re in Michigan.

Beka Blocks are the best unit blocks on the market. And blocks, of course, are the most basic toy and the basis for learning math. We’ve visited their woodshop in Minnesota and can attest that they’re made with love.

Beka blocks

• We’ve also visited Maple Landmark in Vermont, makers of the Name Trains. This company is super eco-friendly.

• Speaking of eco-friendly, what could be more eco-friendly than making toys out of recycled milk jugs? Green Toys does this in California.

3-D Shrinky Dinks are made in Florida. Who remembers coloring on plastic, then shrinking it in the oven? Fun!

• Back in this corner of the country, WoolPets come from Suquamish, Washington. These felting kits let kids (or grownups) make little animals out of wool.


• Another Washington company is Eye Can Art. Seattle art teachers put together everything you need to make amazing art projects, and the kits span ages from 4 to adult.

• When you need to think, Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty will help. Get your hands working the putty, which comes in a range of metallic colors, color-changing hues or glow-in-the-darks, and free your mind to think. Made in Pennsylvania by individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities, working as a team to develop vocational skills and economic self-sufficiency.

Piggy Paint, a natural nail polish that’s safe for kids, is made in Arkansas.

Flarbles are made in Arkansas, too. Put one between your fingers, snap your fingers, and watch it fly!

Tot Talk placemats come from California. Front and back, they’ll teach your kids while they eat.

Tot Talk

Harrisville potholder looms are not only fun, they make a high quality potholder that’s perfect for gift-giving. We just got in a new larger size loom. Made in Harrisville, New Hampshire.

Rain Baby Gear is handmade right across the river in Portland, Oregon. The water-repellant stroller blankets are perfect for our climate, and the aprons will keep your kids clean.

Tweet Toys in Portland makes handcrafted wooden sailboats and rowboats for fun in the tub, pool or lake.

• Even closer to home are Taylor & Chloe hair clips, made in Camas.

• And just in, handmade right here in Vancouver, are Sleep Shepherd baby dolls, weighted dolls filled with millet and calming herbs.

Sleep Shepherd

Puddle Jumpin’ Cards are blank on the inside for your own greeting, but the fronts are stamped with a hand-carved linocut by our own daughter in Hood River, Oregon.

We are most likely missing some things, but this is what comes to mind right now. We are constantly looking for more Made in the USA items. It’s the ultimate way to shop local.