Photo by Mark A Steele Photography Inc.

Indoor playgrounds have been around for a while, but Atlanta-based Kefi is hoping to really change the game. In August 2019, it opened its inaugural store in the city’s tony Buckhead area. It is loaded with technology aimed to enhance the play experience by letting kids immerse themselves in stories, create their own music and play with (and test out) the latest toys. This “playtainment paradise” also is a toy store that aims to please parents as much as it pleases kids by offering ample opportunities for “me time” as well as “we time.”

Kefi spans 22,000 sq. ft., yet only 2,800 sq. ft. of that is retail space. After seeing the demise of Toys “R” Us and studying Millennial consumers, Kefi’s founder and CEO Drew Panayiotou knew that toy retail was ripe for disruption. Panayiotou’s previous executive experience with Best Buy and the now-defunct indoor amusement park DisneyQuest provided fertile ground for launching his high-tech toy store.

Besides having multiple play areas, Kefi is a place for parents as well, having two private lounges with co-working spaces where parents can watch their children play or join in if the mood strikes. For
safety, kids wear trackable wrist bands that also enable them to bring their story or music creations home. A café brings it all full circle, because what outing is complete without a high-end coffee for caretakers and snacks for the kids?

With screens and projectors galore, Panayiotou says Kefi uses technology to engage kids, enhance play and to keep the playground dynamic. “We want to have a platform that takes brands into the service of the child, not just for selling stuff,” he adds.

Kefi’s paid admission includes access to five play areas and the parent lounges, but Kefi Studios is free and open to the public. For this retail piece, Kefi partnered with Atlanta-based Miller Zell, which created a modular display system for the toys with integrated iPad signage. Because Panayiotou wanted a flexible space, the displays transform into seating that faces a stage to support educational parent talks and toy demos.

Allen Plaugh, senior design director at Miller Zell, says this project was quite a departure from the storage and signage most retailers use. “Kefi is rethinking the whole model,” he explains. “It has very little signage, brings products out of the boxes, puts them on display and lets the product be the hero. Kids don’t want to read signs and bullet points. Play first and talk about anything else after that.”

This combination of toy store and a constantly changing playground is what Panayiotou hopes will keep families coming back again and again. As of January, more than 15,000 people have visited.

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Photo by Mark A Steele Photography Inc.