Local Mother Hopes to Keep Growing Mad Hatter Play Cafe in Centralia


Having opened initially over the last summer, the Mad Hatter Play Cafe in Centralia, owned by Lisa Sills, has seen initial success and growth.

Sills hopes to continue both.

The cafe is a blend of a playground for children and a coffee shop for parents.

“We’ve got a full espresso bar, blended drinks, iced drinks, whatever you would expect to find at a regular coffee stand, we provide that here. We get our beans locally from Santa Lucia Coffee. My friend Lucy (Page) owns Santa Lucia and we get our beans every Wednesday,” Sills said.

Snacks and drinks are also available for purchase if the little ones get hungry while playing.

The price to play at Mad Hatter is $7.50 for one child and $5 for every additional child after that. Additionally, once a parent has paid the fee, they are free to leave and return later on the same day to let their children play more without being charged again. Monthly and yearly memberships are available to purchase as well.

Mad Hatter’s play area is designed for kids 6 and under, but Sills said kids older than 6 are still allowed to play.

“We have kids as old as 10 and 12 out there as long as they are willing to play appropriately in the space and stay out of the 2-and-under zone and not ride toys too small for them, and they have a great time playing here,” Sills said.

She said the play area is sensory-friendly for kids with autism or other developmental disabilities, and the Lewis County Autism Coalition has even rented space there to host a party before the school year began to help parents and kids be prepared for what was going to be required of their kids in school.

“They used our Tiny Town to help integrate them into playing with other kids and learning what it means to go to school,” Sills said.

Sills said since opening she has been busier than expected due to the long summer and smoke from wildfires driving many kids to play inside. It hasn’t just been Lewis County locals coming to let their kids play at Mad Hatter, either.

“It’s a good midway spot. A lot of families who maybe live in Seattle and Portland that know each other and want to visit each other are meeting here and having a full-day playdate,” Sills said.

Business has been steady now that the rainy season has started, according to Sills. The biggest growth since opening is Tiny Town being completed, thanks to help due to donations by local businesses, Sills said.

Tiny Town dominates the play area and now has multiple buildings all based on local businesses for kids to play in.

“Our buildings were sponsored by different people in town, so we have our Holly’s Place and our Fuller’s Market and Riverside Fire Authority donated a fire jacket and a hose that we have up on the wall in there so the kids can see real equipment,” said Sills. “Our vet’s office has a light board where you can look at X-rays, and we have donated X-rays from different veterinary clinics so you can see like a pregnant dog, pregnant cat, animals with broken bones, and then the kids can fix them up.”

Fuller’s Market donates food to stock the “store” in Tiny Town so kids can go shopping there.

“Fuller’s has all kinds of fresh fruits and vegetables and canned goods. The first thing every day, kids come in, they go into Fullers, they do their grocery shopping, they fill the fridge in the house, the house has all the food. I wait until that group of kids has moved on for the day and I put the food back in Fuller’s for the next round of kids to come and shop and fill their fridge. It’s really fun to watch them act out all the different things they see their families doing,” Sills said.

According to Sills, Mad Hatter has become more than just a cafe where parents can grab a cup of coffee and relax a bit while their children play. It’s become a hub helping people rebuild community relationships after COVID-19 and even make business connections.

“The thing about opening this business that has been most surprising to me is the sense of community among parents that come in here. They’re so excited to be here and want to tell everyone they know about it, and they’re making friends just like their kids are making friends,” Sills said.

She added the COVID-19 shutdown was particularly hard on younger kids and she has seen some come in who are just now realizing there are others out there who are their same ages.

“We’ve had kids who have never met another peer of their own size and you can just see the confusion on their face, like, ‘there’s more little people?’” Sills said.

Being that Mad Hatter’s main purpose is a playground, Sills concentrates on keeping the business clean. Wiping down surfaces throughout the day, she makes sure to snag any toy she sees a child put in their mouth to wash it before letting another child play with it.

Due to the rise in respiratory illnesses in children, Sills has elected to remove a ball pit that was available; however, she added it will likely return over the upcoming summer.

Aside from being able to buy coffee, Sills also has set up sales racks for local artisans to sell their work in Mad Hatter.

In the future, a construction zone will be added to Tiny Town using wood donated by Lincoln Creek Lumber. 

For more details on upcoming events or to schedule a party, visit Mad Hatter’s FaceBook page at https://www.facebook.com/MadHatterPlayCafe/ or its Instagram page at https://www.instagram.com/madhatterplaycafe/.

Mad Hatter Play Cafe is located at 2100 Haviland St. in Centralia next to the DXL store in the Centralia Outlets. The cafe is open Sunday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and closed on Saturdays.

For more information, email Sills at Madhatterplaycafe@gmail.com or call 360-880-1946.