At the newly opened play café on 12th Street, the sound of a coffee machine blends with the babbling of toddlers. Here, a padded play zone for kids co-exists with a coffee bar for adults.
Rainbow Play Cafe is both a café where kids can play and a play zone where adults can chill.
The mashup is a brainchild of Xanat Guiot, a mom of two, a digital marketer and an entrepreneur, who wanted to create a space where parents can take some time out while their tykes clock in hours of fun.
More importantly, Guiot's dream was to design a hub where new parents could connect with other parents and feel a sense of community — something that Guiot personally yearned for but never had when she moved from Mexico to Canada eight years ago, pregnant with her first child.
“At the beginning, it was very difficult for me. As a mom with little kids, you need to have time with your friends, other moms … But I didn’t have any friends then. I felt really isolated and alone.”
She sought a sense of community through other means — by starting a blog for moms, creating a Facebook group for Latin American parents across B.C. (started with five moms, it now has more than 3,000 members) and even organizing a party for moms with a grant from the City of Vancouver.
But what Guiot most fondly remembers from that time is meeting her first mom friend in Canada at a play café in Vancouver.
“It was great because, finally, I could chat with another adult.”
That experience sat with Guiot all these years, prompting her to finally start her own play café this past week.
Building a business from scratch
Having worked in public relations, Guiot single-handedly did the market research, drafted a business plan, found a space (it used to be a wine-making store and then a thrift store, she said), designed the interiors and the website, and set up the kids play zone (with inputs from a child psychologist) for her café .
But then came the biggest challenge of all: Guiot didn’t know anything about being a barista.
To move forward with her play café, Guiot had to go back to being a student: “I took a class on how to prepare coffee. That was a huge challenge.”
With the brew taken care of, she then contacted local food entrepreneurs such as The Empanada Gal and Angel’s Pastries (after reading about them in the Record), and stocked up her café with a selection of empanadas, lemon tarts, croissants and more.
In just the first week of opening, Guiot had a customer come in and share a reel of the space on the New West Moms Group on Facebook.
“With that, my Instagram went crazy.”
A lot of moms, she said, began sharing their own Instagram stories, helping her spread the word.
The support has been “overwhelming,” she said.
“And I can see that it’s (the play café concept) working. I can see moms, especially those with older kids, sit down, relax, have a cup of coffee and just watch their kids play ….”
Unlike a park where it can get challenging to supervise a toddler, or a community centre program that’s only open for a limited time and would need pre-booking, Guiot said, the café is a convenient alternative for parents and their tots for an impromptu fun outing.
“Just the other day I saw a dad come in with his four-year-old daughter, and just sit there and read a book,” she recalled.
“That’s when I felt, ‘This is exactly why I created this space.’”
Rainbow Play Cafe is located at 921 12th St. It is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays, and till 4 p.m. on Saturdays. The play zone entry is free for babies who are under five months old, $3 for a parent and a six- to 11-month old baby, $6 for a parent and a one- to two-year-old tot, and $6.50 for a parent and preschooler (three years and above).