The story of The Dancing Weasel begins with Danita (mom of two grown kids) and Aya (daughter of Danita, and raising three of her own) sitting in Aya’s backyard one summer day, watching the kids play. As they daydreamed about the perfect job, it parlayed into owning the perfect business…a toy store.
The more they thought about it, the more they loved the idea. So, after a lot of research, drafting a business plan, and waiting a couple of years to transition out of their jobs, they opened The Dancing Weasel Toy Store in December 2012. The name of the store was derived by taking Aya’s oldest daughter’s love of dance and her younger daughter’s nickname of weasel and combing them - The Dancing Weasel.
Here is more of their story:
GMG: Let’s start with what your super hero names would be.
Danita: Maybe something like, “Mischievous Ultimate Mastermind” or “Magnificent Dark Chocolate Taster of the Universe.”
Aya: I wish it was “Captain Clean”, but I think its more like “Agent Ineeda Coffee”!
GMG: And tell us a little about your kids.
Danita: I raised two kiddos. My son lives and works in Seattle and I have the fantastic opportunity to work with my daughter, Aya.
Aya: I have three kids, two daughters and a son. My oldest daughter will be 12-years old in May and is my level-headed, reasonable one. I think someday she may end up as the president of the USA (promise I’m not biased). I have a nine-year old daughter who is the life of the party! I have a feeling that I’ll need to keep her away from wing suits and anything else that is too exciting for me to handle! My son will be three-years old in May, he’s ‘all boy’ even though he enjoys having his nails painted and makeovers with his older sisters!
GMG: Before you became a mom, what were you up to?
Danita: I moved to the South where I was a chef in New Orleans for a few years. Then I moved back to Eugene, went to school, got a degree in Design and Marketing and worked in that field for over 30 years with international, national and local clients.
Aya: I have worked in retail my whole life. However in 2002, I moved to Germany with my (ex)husband to follow his career in the Air Force. I have lived all over Oregon, in Washington, Mississippi, and Germany, but Eugene has always felt like home!
GMG: What are some of the joys and challenges of being a family operating a business?
Danita: It’s a real joy working with my daughter. We never seem to get tired of each other. I think the combination of Aya’s retail experience and my marketing experience really helps with running the store.
Store space is a challenge. Our store is 1000 sq feet and we have a lot of great product and it can be challenging getting it all out on shelves. We wanted a play area, and we were able to make one - which families love. We wish we had more space to do more things, but for the moment it’s working for us. In the end, the joy for me is seeing big and little smiles. Our store makes people happy and this makes us happy.
Aya: The absolute best part of owning the toy store is my business partner -- I love my mom and she is awesome to work with! I also love being able to make a difference in the community, offering amazing product, providing free story and music time, and helping schools and nonprofits through fundraising. It’s really important to me that we can give back to the community and I am learning every day how much of a difference local business means to our communities’ well being. We have donated thousands of dollars to the community since we opened in December 2012. I feel like my biggest challenge with owning a business is my time management, I never have enough hours in the day!
GMG: Thank you so much for reaching out to our city! It sounds as if The Dancing Weasel is a unique experience in many ways – from how you care for the community to how you organize and purchase for your store. What else makes you so unique and relevant to your customers?
Danita: We know a lot about our awesome toys (and have demos) and we love to help people find that really cool and unique gift for their special little person. We also do free gift wrapping and have over 1000 wonderful items under $20 that are perfect for birthday parties. And we do different activities in the store for kiddos like story or music time. We post events on our website calendar.
Aya: We spend a lot of time researching the toys we carry so that they are educational, functional and beautiful to play with! We’ve also taken the time to consider the small details like safe, free, off-street parking, our store is merchandised in clean rows and product is easy to find, and our customers can shop comfortable knowing they can keep an eye on there little ones in our play area.
GMG: What’s something new you’re currently learning about?
Danita: We are always learning about new products that we bring into the store. Both of us will be learning Quckbooks which will help us streamline our bookkeeping. I’ve been teaching myself watercolor which has been an ongoing process for the last couple years.
Aya: Honestly I’m still learning so much about the store and owning a business that I’m not really taking on extra stuff in my personal life. I actually don’t have much of a life outside of the store (hahaha!) We have so much more we want to offer our customers and the community -- one idea we are hoping to put into action this summer is “Play time in the park!” where we would have families join us at a local park to play with our awesome outdoor toys.
GMG: Do you have any advice for moms who are just beginning to go after their business dreams?
Danita: Find a niche and research it. Write out all the things you need to do to accomplish your goal. Break that list down into smaller chunks. Work on one chunk at a time. This will help you stay focused. Figure out where you want your business to be located by doing demographics. Go on field trips and visit other similar businesses. Most owners/managers are willing to talk to you about their store. Create a business plan. Visit SCORE’s website and local office. Never give up. If there’s a roadblock, just make a new road/path to get to your goal. Start small and grow big.
Aya: Lots of research and a solid plan.
GMG: When you’re not on full on mommy or grandma duty, what do you like to do?
Danita: I love nature. I love to hike and watercolor and play in my art studio.
Aya: I fell in love with camping at the Whittaker campgrounds last summer. I also love shopping and eating really yummy food!
GMG: Would you divulge a bad mom moment in the last month?
Danita: I can’t remember ever having a bad mom moment. I’m perfect. Hahaha, right! Aya would remember if I had a bad mom moment.
Aya: Yeah my mom is perfect, hahaha!!! For me, I forgot our neighbor’s daughter’s birthday. The neighbors took all the kids out for pizza and desert and then it took me about four days to get her a birthday present…come on, I own a toy store! So for any of you parents who buy the gift on the way to the party, you are doing better then me!
GMG: And the best mom moment in the last month?
Danita: Giving Euphoria chocolate to Aya.
Aya: Getting Euphoria chocolate from my mom! Also when I told my son he is cute and he looked back at me and told me, “Mom you cute!”
GMG: What do you think is your strongest mom skill?
Danita: Oh boy, my strongest? Creativity. I’m very creative.
Aya: Growing up with my mom was so cool - she always had crafts and activities for us to do! I’d have to say mine is being able to admit if I was wrong and apologize for it. My kids are growing up so fast and I love them so much, but I do make mistakes (everyone does).
GMG: What’s your favorite thing to do as a family in Eugene?
Danita: Hanging out with each other doing dinners, picnics, play in the parks, etc.
Aya: Everything my mom said!
GMG: And how do you stay sane through the rainy season of Eugene?
Danita: I love the rain! Its book/movie cuddle time.
Aya: Movies and snuggling my three babies and my fiancé!
How cute are they?
Be sure to drop by The Dancing Weasel soon & check out all of their awesome toys & books!
The Dancing Weasel Toy Store
Monday-Saturday: 10am to 5:30pm
Sunday: 11am to 5pm
30 E. 17th Ave., Eugene, Oregon 97401.
(Between Willamette and Oak,
right across the street from Brails Restaurant.)
Safe, off-street parking right in front of our store.
Dancing Weasel is giving away three great items!
Comment here with your super hero name
& you'll be entered to win!
We will notify you, then you go to Dancing Weasel
& choose your prize from the selection below.
First come, first served.
You must pick up your prize within 7 days of being notified.
Thanks so much Dancing Weasel!
You guys are awesome!
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