Hello Bend! As businesses in Central Oregon prepare to reopen, we continue to share “Local Favorites” with you. Discover new businesses, Bend originals, and old classics by getting to know them in a more intimate way through our blog series! When you dive into the story and the people behind a business, we believe it helps foster a deeper connection within the community. This week we are proud to feature Learning Express Toys of Bend. In support of their reopening on May 18, we’ve teamed up to offer our followers an opportunity to win this amazing Melissa & Doug Snacks & Sweets Food Cart (a $199 value!). Read to the bottom for details on how to enter.
Welcome to Bend!
What started as a Mom’s dream to open a toy store, became a Bend local business reality in 2017 when Learning Express Toys of Bend opened their doors. “My goal was to have a store where kids were excited to come. Where kids could play games and ride on scooters throughout the store,” says Letty Lees, owner of Learning Express Toys of Bend.
Finding the Right Store Model
While visiting her daughter in Texas, Letty and her husband visited two Learning Express toy stores. “Each was very different from one another, but they did share similar qualities. Both were happy places with happy, helpful employees. They were vibrant and fun and enjoyable to be in. We spoke to the owners of one of the Texas stores and decided this model was something to investigate. Signing with the Learning Express franchise was the first best decision I made.” says Letty.
A True Family Business
In 2017, Letty started to build out her store, which is located in the Bend Factory Outlet Center, near the Nike and Columbia outlet stores. Letty knew setting up the store and launching her new business was going to be a lot of work and she would need some help. “I asked my son James if he would like to join me in this venture. Lucky for me he agreed enthusiastically. This was the second best decision I made. In 2018 my now Daughter-in law joined us and in 2019 my husband joined! We are truly a family run business. We were lucky to find some amazing employees who helped round out our team,” Letty shares.
“One of my fondest memories, and I have many, was of a mother and daughter who came in. Her daughter was having a rough day. The mother told me that her daughter said she needed to go to her happy place, and that place was our store. Made my heart melt. Watching the kids grow, feeling like a kid again and making new connections have been the best part of owning this store!” exclaims Letty.
The Birthday Box
Not only is the store full of fun, educational based toys, it is also home to the “Birthday Box”. Similar to a gift registry for kids, but way more fun at set up! Kids who have an upcoming birthday have the pleasure of walking around the store selecting their favorite toys. Everything goes in a box with the child’s name and birth date (or party date) and friends can come into the store to pick something out of the box when shopping for the birthday child. As a mom, I love the convenience of the Birthday Box. It takes the guesswork out of gift giving. Plus, Learning Express Toys give you a 10% discount on anything in the box and they will gift wrap it at no additional cost!
Making it Work during COVID-19
Like all businesses, COVID-19 has been a major hit to their business. Learning Express Toys of Bend has continued to serve the community with curbside pickup and delivery. They quickly set up a mini local website for online shopping, and they’ve been working on it constantly to get all their inventory uploaded.
Back in Business!
They recently released their re-opening plan, “We plan to reopen our doors on May 18th. Our hours will be modified to start Mon-Sat, 10am-5pm and closed on Sundays. We will also be open Friday, May 15, from 11am-3pm if anyone would like to pop in before our “official” reopening on Monday. We have our sanitizer cleaner and will be wearing masks. Unfortunately, we have removed all of our Demos and play areas in order to stay safe. We are asking our customers to help protect each other by wearing masks as well. We will be monitoring the number of families that come in and asking some to wait until others have left, if necessary.”
“We are truly lucky to live in and operate our business in such an amazing place. We hope that we can continue to add something special to this community that has embraced us wholeheartedly,” says Letty.
We at Hello Bend Oregon Blog have teamed up with the generous owners of Learning Express Bend to offer YOU an INCREDIBLE GIVEAWAY of a Melissa & Doug Snacks & Sweets Food Cart!!! Subscribe to the blog, and comment below with your FAVORITE childhood toy to enter the Blog giveaway, then head on over to our Facebook and Instagram pages for more ways to enter!
SUBSCRIBE to our blog (“Subscribe” button on the menu bar to the right —>) to follow our “Local Favorites” series. Do you have a favorite local business (or product or service) you think we should feature? Send us a message so we can connect and get the conversation started!