After nearly 40 years of combined experience working with children, Sherri Sanders and Brenna Neater are adding another side to their childcare business — the Wild Side.
The event space on Kalispell’s Main Street is the mother and daughter duo’s attempt to diversify their longtime childcare pursuits with unique activities for all ages.
“The biggest thing I want people to know is it’s versatile for whatever you need it for. It isn’t just for kids,” Neater said.
It took the longtime preschool teachers four months to renovate the former site of cosmetic line Skin and Sky into what they call an “event studio” with a variety of distinct spaces.
Since May, they have been holding children’s play groups and art classes, as well as various events such as meetings, parties and date-night activities. The front of their studio features a nature-themed children’s play area with a playhouse, a cushy human-sized bird’s nest and a variety of interactive activities for children. They also have a lounge space with a table for everything from children’s art activities to dinner parties and meetings.
In the back of the building is the wildest section of the Wild Side, called the Smash Wall. While their children run around the play area in the front, parents can venture into the back room to throw glass bottles against a brick-studded wall. Open to visitors over age 18, the Smash Wall serves the dual purpose of relieving frustration and providing recycling.
“We wanted to recycle glass,” Sanders said. They recycle used bottles by reusing the shattered bottles to make glass murals in art classes.
“There are little surprises everywhere,” Sanders said.
The new event space will hold its grand opening ceremony at 4 p.m. on Tuesday with food, drinks and giveaways. Neater and Sanders hope the event will familiarize people with the unique space and the wide variety of ways to utilize it.
“It’s one-of-a-kind,” Sanders claimed. She encouraged people to “come and look at it. If there’s something you’d like to do here, we’ll make it happen.”
After decades running their own outdoor preschool, the Wild Side’s co-owners hope to transition out of the daycare and children’s playgroups that have occupied them for so long. They hope birthday parties for all ages, bridal showers, meetings and other group events will become the Wild Side’s core business going forward.
“It’s just a natural thing for our family,” to work with children, Neater explained. But the challenges of running their own outdoor preschool prompted the former teachers to change up their repertoire and diversify into other age groups.
“We’re trying to get out of that,” Sanders explained. “We wanted to engage kids in outdoor activities inside,” as well as provide a space for children to play safely while parents hold meetings or enjoy a little creative downtime.
With the business’s menagerie of options and age ranges, Sanders confessed “We have found that we can’t explain this even to our family.”
She encouraged people in Kalispell and beyond to knock on the door and check out the space in order to appreciate the addition to the downtown environment.
The Wild Side does not have open hours, but the best way to find a time to visit or host an event is to call Sanders at 261-3711 or Neater at 261-3384.
The Wild Side is located at 88 North Main Street in Kalispell.
Reporter Bret Anne Serbin may be reached at email@example.com or 758-4459.