Captain Little set to open in former Wind Up Here space Aug. 16

Welcome back, downtown Olympia toy store.

The emotional void left behind when the popular Wind Up Here toy store closed in March is about to be filled with a new place for children.

The new business is called Captain Little and it will open at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Washington Street after the Pet Parade at 11 a.m. Aug. 16.

Opening day festivities will include popcorn from an old-fashioned popcorn maker and balloon twisting. Olympia Mayor Stephen Buxbaum is set to cut the opening-day ribbon, co-owner Alana Carr said Thursday.

Carr, plus family members, volunteers, and co-owner Paul Shepherd — the owner of downtown business Compass Rose — plus members of the city’s Downtown Ambassadors helped unload a 40-foot shipping container Thursday morning, filled with fixtures for the new store.

Merchandise is already on-site, awaiting display.

“Wind Up Here operated successfully downtown for 20 years and we wanted to fill that niche,” Carr said.

Carr and Shepherd were among many in the community who were stunned when word got out that Wind Up Here was about to close. A liquidation sale drew hundreds, if not more, and in a matter of days the store was cleaned out and gone, an active corner of downtown no longer so active.

But Shepherd responded almost immediately to the vacancy, telling The Olympian in mid-March that he wanted to continue the legacy of bringing toys and children to a similar store downtown.

“We think this is so important for downtown,” Shepherd said at the time.

Carr said Thursday that they didn’t have much of plan at the time, but a lot has changed since then, including changes to the 4,000-square-foot space itself. The space has been opened up to allow more light, and previously unseen wooden posts have been exposed to add to the look of the store.

As for merchandise, Captain Little plans to carry lots of children’s books — and offer events tied to reading — as well as toys and arts and crafts supplies.

Children likely will be thrilled with the centerpiece of the store: a robot recovered from an amusement park ride that stands a little over six feet tall and has eyes that light up.

Carr described it as more “fun and whimsy” for Captain Little.

Meanwhile, there’s plenty of work to do over the next nine days to get the store ready for its opening, she said.

Among those helping Thursday was Michael Tempke, who worked at Wind Up Here for 13 years and is set to work at the new store.

He, too, was shocked by Wind Up Here’s closure, calling it an emotional and difficult time.

“It was like losing a friend or a really close loved one,” he said.

But he also appeared thrilled Thursday to be working again.

“It’s really the best job in the world,” he said about working at a toy store.

Following its opening on Aug. 16, Captain Little will be open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. most days, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays.