Hey! Big news:
We've got a couple Little Forager backpacks hanging out over at the cutest kids shop in the twin cities (and maybe the entire midwest), Kinoko Kids. It's run by Tammy Tanaka Johnson and Erika Olson Gross, two incredibly sweet, inspiring and talented women. This past Saturday they celebrated their first full year in business!
My favorite thing about this shop and what they offer here is the accessibility of the toys and how each item is sourced with intention for long term use. Most toys in the shop (if not all) are versatile and offer plenty of room for imagination and creativity.
Tell us a little bit about yourselves, and why you’re passionate about Kinoko:
Where did the name Kinoko come from?
Kinoko means mushroom in Japanese. As we shared ideas and images with each other as we were working on naming the shop mushrooms kept coming up- mostly in vintage prints and illustrations from Japan and Europe. Tammy is from Japan and Erika studied there for a time and we knew offering Japanese goods would be an important part of our shop so it seemed like a perfect fit.
We met at a Japanese restaurant waiting tables 20 some years ago. We were both art students and thrift store lovers at the time, and always talked about doing something creative together. Individually we've done a lot of different stuff over the years but always seemed to keep coming back to this idea of some kind of kid-centered business together. So the word and imagery of "Kinoko" represents a lot for us...food...nature...folklore...simplicity...childlike wonder...and vintage cuteness of course.
Erika, I know you’ve spent some years teaching at a Montessori school and even grew up attending one. Does that influence what kind of things you sell in the shop? If so, tell us about it!
I think Montessori education has shaped me and been kind of a guiding principle in my life in a lot of ways. As a kid in a Montessori environment I developed a real appreciation for what is called "the prepared environment". The classrooms are clean, simple organized and inviting. The learning materials are made of quality materials (mostly natural materials like wood) and we were taught to use them with care and to respect them. Giving kids tools to do real work with is big in Montessori education so we have a great practical life area in the shop that has things like brooms, dustpans, gardening tools etc. that are not toys but real tools. As far as toys go, I really favor toys that are open-ended and encourage independent play. I like toys that are high quality and give kids a pleasurable tactile experience. Having fewer toys but quality toys encourage kids to respect and better care for their things in my experience. Although I was a Montessori art teacher but I REALLY love Waldorf art materials. I've been learning more and more about Waldorf art education lately and I'm inspired by it. We've been adding lots of gorgeous art materials from Stockmar and Lyra to the shelves and getting a great response.
Erika, both you and Tammy (the owners of Kinoko) are artists and love to create. What kind of classes do you host at the shop?
We've had some classes for both Kids and adults at the shop and hope to do much more of that in the future. Tammy has taught a few Origami classes- she grew up in Japan and loved doing Origami as a kid and shes really great at it. Erika has led some fiber arts classes for both kids and adults too. In the coming months we have several classes in the works. Erika is a toymaker and wants to teach some toy making classes (both adult and kids) and Tammy would like to teach some sewing classes as well that are related to mending and sewing basics.
It looks like you guys sell just about everything. What is your favorite offering in the shop right now?
Erika's favorites: I'm really into the Stockmar opaque paint set we have. Amazing high quality pigments and great for kids and adults alike. Give Voice postcards from Eeboo. A set of 25 postcards that encourage kids to write to their elected officials to give them a piece of their mind - Yes!! Also the latest book by By BLEXBOLEX Vacation is an incredible work of art. and last but not least the Pusheen Narwhal because I really have a real weakness for ridiculous cute stuff too.
Tammy's favorites: Lapin & Me dolls. They are still made in Japan using molds from vintage Japanese toys! The Chirri and Chirra Books by Kaya Doi are so incredibly charming and filled with simple wonder and love of nature. The Mushroom lamps from Egmont are another favorite. Both Erika and Tammy have the big red one in our Kids rooms...magical. and Finally Pocket Pups which are squishy mini French Bulldogs. Enough said!
We have tons of great vintage summery kid's clothes in the shop right now too. Tammy's favorite is a swimsuit with an all-over hamburger and fries print. She says it's basically her in swimsuit form. Erika's favorite are some vintage hand-painted Swedish clogs-she's a confirmed clog addict. These two picks say a lot about us and the general vibe of Kinoko Kids we think!
Kinoko Kids is located at 314 West 38th St in Minneapolis. While you're visiting take some time to pop your head into the new shop that just went in next door, the Fitting Room. They've curated a beautiful collection of Minnesota based clothing and jewelry designers.