On the 11th of January Oaks n’ Acorns will open for a grand unveiling. Billed as an ‘activity studio’ with a ‘stay n’ play café,’ this Danforth destination has been promoting itself on the web and in its storefront since way back in 2012. Oaks n’ Acorns will join the increasingly competitive market of places to go with a pre-school child (or two). Is it offering something different enough to draw children back with their parents? Is there a niche for it? Let us examine.
Where exactly Oaks n’ Acorns belongs among child-and-caregiver destinations won’t be known until it is open, if not some time later. However, it seems like it will be program oriented like Playful Grounds, perhaps with a different café and food focus a little closer to Lil Bean N’ Green. The combination of drop-in and structured play is like BizzyBee Playcentre, but focused more on the later than BizzyBee. In some ways Oaks n’ Acorns seems to be seeking a middle ground between a café like Bean n’ Green and the structured program centre model of the YMCA/YWCA. If they are able to create the relaxed, yet active community hub which they are seeking, it will be a unique place.
The large space and snapshots on the facebook page indicate enough space for active play, and there are ‘adult’ wooden restaurant style chairs for the café portion. Programs which are suggested by the press release include: singing, other music, dance, pilates, yoga, visual art, sewing, and perhaps seminars (‘professors’ are counted amongst assets). It seems that what Oaks n’ Acorns ultimately offers are programs, ‘drop n’ play sessions,’ and party hosting. It seems, however, that owners Winnie Standish and Nicole Patel aspire to go beyond that and towards the kind of ‘third place’ often associated with a certain Seattle coffee franchise.
The big reveal is exciting for parents in East York looking for a place to go regularly with ‘Tots.’ Sometime soon after that we will examine Oaks n’ Acorns in full bloom, and maybe take some action shots. As a new business its identity may evolve over the short term, as might its success rate, but it is easy to root for local small business catering to young families.