It’s a new year, and Yelm business Funtime Toys and Gifts is ready for it.
Heather Ekland founded the business on the internet in 2006 as freedomdaysales.com and became a brick-and-mortar store in 2019.
“After a year, I was able to expand into the unit next to the existing one, but we needed more room, and in January of last year, I was told that the units we are currently located in were coming available in a few months,” Ekland said. “My family and I moved the business to the other end of the building. It was quite an undertaking, but we did it together.”
Funtime Toys and Gifts boasts an impressive array of products, collaborating with over 300 brands and offering over 16,000 stock keeping units. The store caters to various interests, including Magic the Gathering, Pokemon, Funko, Lego, Fat Brain Toys, Breyer, Dungeons & Dragons, Great Pretenders, Duke Cannon, Playmobil, Schleich, Safari, Pez, Jelly Belly, and Tonies.
“One room is dedicated to dice, board and puzzle games,” Ekland said. “We have a wide selection of children’s books, as well as home-schooling resources new and used. Our puzzle section contains children’s to complex puzzles, including many 3D and lenticular puzzles.”
Funtime Toys and Gifts is now a gathering point for the community. Since initiating events in July 2023, the store has become a hub for gaming enthusiasts. Magic games, D&D group meetings, Magic Commander sessions and kids craft activities are just a glimpse into the diverse calendar of events.
“We have open game tables, and players are encouraged to come and play at the tables any time the room is open during business hours,” Ekland said.
The store has a variety of Magic games from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays. On the first Saturday of the month, the store has a Dungeons and Dragons group meeting to play at 1 p.m., and on the second Saturday at 1 p.m., Funtime Toys and Gifts offers Magic Commander.
On the third Saturday of each month, the store offers a kids craft activity starting at 1 p.m.
“The type of craft varies each month, but this month we will have a local artist coming in to teach about art,” Ekland said. “Next month, she will start offering art classes for kids.”
On the fourth Saturday of the month, the store features a miniature painting day, when players are encouraged to bring their miniature painting project to work on.
The second and fourth Saturdays of each month are family game nights. Most of the events are free of charge. Anyone can follow the games calendar by joining the store’s text program by sending the word “Games” to 360-300-2624; for sales and other notifications from the store, people can text “Toys” to the same number.
Ekland and her team are continuously expanding, with plans to introduce more gaming events such as Yu-Gi-Oh!, Lorcana, Dragon Ball Z and Pokemon. The store even provides a “store-use” army for Warhammer players to borrow for friendly matches.
“I am hoping to add a play-with-the-books time to allow the little ones to sit down and play with several of the wonderful book titles that are available from smaller publishers that enrich learning [and] reading with play,” Ekland said. “I am very excited to see where we will go this year!”
Community feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with visitors expressing their awe at the spacious store and diverse product range.
“My favorite is ‘Wow, it’s so much bigger on the inside. We had no idea. This is a hidden gem,’ ” Ekland said. “Excitement over the game space has been overwhelming. We have an exceptional community in Yelm that is very supportive of our small businesses and community. We are proud to be a small part of our community in Yelm.”
Looking ahead, Funtime Toys and Gifts is set to welcome new lines of toys and products, especially during the retail “show” seasons in January and August. Ekland is committed to curating products that are not only fun but also educational and encourage imagination and learning in children.
Approaching its fifth year with a storefront, Ekland said she has been thankful for all the encouragement from the community even during trying times these past few years due to COVID
“I find it inspiring to see the people of our community going out of their way to be kind,” Ekland said. “They have kept me going with encouraging words, shout-outs and cheering. Words can’t express my gratitude to those people who do not know me outside of the store but would drop in to say hi, how’s it going or keep going you’re going to make it! Each one has touched my life and made a meaningful impact on the success of the business.”