New Island toy store touts sustainability and imagination

A handcrafted wooden castle set is an example of the craftsmanship found at the Island’s newest toy store, Katan. - Rebecca Mar/Mercer Island Reporter
A handcrafted wooden castle set is an example of the craftsmanship found at the Island’s newest toy store, Katan.
— image credit: Rebecca Mar/Mercer Island Reporter

Rainbow pyramid blocks, a miniature treehouse, bamboo baby blankets — a variety of children’s items line the shelves at Katan, the new toy boutique on Mercer Island.

The shop is the only one of its kind on the Island, offering eco-friendly toys made with materials such as recycled apple and cherry branches or alder wood, and finished with linseed and flax seed oils.

“The toys are not just ‘green,’ but open-ended, so the toys can be used for a variety of reasons, which as an educator I find very valuable,” said Shannon Cruzen, of Mercer Island, who opened the boutique in early September with her business partner, Sarah Adams, a Seattle resident.

Both women teach at the Stroum Jewish Community Center — Cruzen, who has taught for 10 years, has a kindergarten class of 13; and Adams, a pre-K class.

“One reason that we decided to do this is our schools were looking for certain types of toys and we couldn’t find them anywhere except in one or two places. For us, we’d like to reach out to small schools and help them find the same types of things that we, as teachers, have been fortunate enough to have,” Cruzen said.

But it isn’t only about toys. Katan’s Web site states, “After years of teaching in the classroom and presenting at local early childhood conferences, we saw a need for a toy store that could provide more than just toys. A place to educate, welcome and celebrate the growing child.”

Designed to engage a child’s imagination, the toys come from sustainable vendors such as Sunshine Silks — a Portland company that hand-dyes play silks; Satsuma Blankets, producer of bamboo blankets; and many items are made in Germany and other European countries. Art supplies, cards, clothes, baby journals and children’s books by a local author are also available.

“It’s kind of the trend in general that we’re moving towards — that we’re finding ways to be more sustainable. As a parent, from a parent’s perspective, it’s better to have fewer toys of quality than to have lots that are plastic and disposable,” said Cruzen, who has two children, ages 2 and 4.

Katan intends to partner with the JCC in parenting programs and cosponsor local events. Cruzen will travel to Reggio-Emilia, Italy — well known for its good reputation in childhood education, she said — for a conference on early childhood education, studying “the continuity between preschools and primary grades” and “children constructing their own knowledge.”

As for the small space and limited hours at the boutique, which is open Wednesday afternoons, Saturdays and Sundays, “Business has been OK,” Cruzen said. “We have a few people walking in off the street. As business owners, we’re slowly learning how to get our name out there.”

The boutique is located at 2856 80th Ave. S.E. Hours are 1-5:30 p.m., Wednesday; 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday; and 11 a.m.-4 p.m., Sunday. For more information: (206) 399-2199,,

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