By Rod Lee
Eighteen months or so have slipped by since the grand experiment that is Enchanted Passage began operations on Armsby Road in Sutton. Long enough for Kimberly Cake, who owns the children’s bookstore and enrichment center with her mother Sandy Loomis, to feel that a corner has been turned.
Speaking of which, there are a fair number of those in traversing the hallways of a building that once housed Vaillancourt Folk Art, in discovering the treasures that can be found room to room (including unique gifts).
A licensed elementary and middle-school teacher, Ms. Cake enjoys giving first-time visitors to Enchanted Passage “the tour,” as she did when a journalist showed up unannounced the afternoon of July 17th. With her “munchkin” Kristiana Grace (born prematurely in 2015 and weighing only a pound at the time but now thriving) in tow, Ms. Cake guided the intruder from the main sales area (also a work-focus space) through what must certainly be the most captivating array of rooms—all arranged “by genre”—this side of Aladdin’s Castle.
“This is the Time Machine room,” she said at stop No. 1. “Everything from dinosaurs to the twin towers and Hurricane Katrina” (Captain Jack, the “singing pirate,” stood guard).
“Here is our Outer Limits room,” dedicated to science-fiction books. “And kids are excited about steam right now,” she added, in explaining the presence of books devoted to that subject.
Next came “Mystery Manor” (with “general fiction, and we have a small adult section”), then the “Princess Way” corridor which leads to “Fantasy Forest” (where fairy tales abound). After that the porch, which is animal-themed. “We just celebrated National Cow Day,” Ms. Cake said. “We partnered with Whittier Farms for that and in August we’ll go there.”
Pausing while her guest marveled at the plethora of reading material smartly displayed on shelves and tables, she said “there’s more!” A “writing section,” also home to “diverse characters, graphic novels, sports and spiritual and crafts” (including advice on “how to make your own robot”).
“The Educational Hallway,” the “Infant and Early Childhood” area, and finally “the Arts & Crafts and Events” room.
All this is not even taking into account an outside garden area.
Ms. Cake introduced us to Tom Berrier of Oxford who, as a representative of DCW Reptile Entertainment, was preparing to give one of his “live animal presentations.” Mere minutes later, despite the threat of a summer storm that would soon hit with a wallop, a stream of parents and kids poured into the Arts & Crafts and Events room for one of Mr. Berrier’s demonstrations; involving, apparently, “lizards.” In no time at all chairs set against the walls were full and there was not an inch of available space on the floor as children eagerly grabbed for water bottles that were being handed out.hj
Taking a chance, Ms. Cake moved the crowd to the garden area, ignoring for the moment the sprinkles that were starting to fall.
Before doing so, she said, of Enchanted Passage’s promising first year and a half, which was initiated during Sutton’s Chain of Lights in 2016, “it’s been great for the community.”
To the observation that the store with its concentration on enlightening the young is “one of a kind,” she smiled and said “we want to focus on literacy enhancement. We want to be a destination for that, not just a bookstore. Even the American Booksellers Association says there is no store just like us. Next week is Harry Potter Week!”
A host of happenings from morning and afternoon pre-K story times to book clubs, writers’ workshops, illustrator workshops, author appearances, baby showers and parent/child paint nights keeps the store humming. Nor is Enchanted Passage exclusively for the very young. “We’re not just little kids but all ages,” Ms. Cake said. “Teen and Tween” Tuesday nights are an example of that.
Ms. Cake and her mom (Sandy Loomis is a licensed mental health counselor who works with adolescents and families and is also the store’s “financial officer”) seem to have found a winning formula.
Ms. Cake could not be happier.
“It’s a very nice commute when it’s snowing!” she said.
She lives upstairs.
Contact Rod Lee at [email protected] or 774-232-2999.