Running a play space that stimulates the minds of children and spoils the grown-ups is not child’s play as we found out when we spoke to Rachael Howard who owns Goose on Hornbeam Park.
As with many of life’s better ideas, Goose came about through Rachael’s own experiences of working in hospitality and sales and being a mum. She soon discovered the places where children were welcomed with open arms and where they most definitely weren’t.
“I could never understand why the trade-off always seemed to be being able to have lovely, thoughtfully-prepared food and really great coffee in a nice environment or being able to relax and let your child play. As a parent or carer, why couldn’t you have both?” she says.
And so Goose was created in August 2016. Taking its name from a term of endearment for her daughter, Rachael says she was determined from the start that the sort of play for children that fired up their imaginations in a light and bright environment could be successfully combined with providing a place for the adults to just wind down.
While the children safely build, create, read, play, balance, rock, swing or relax in The Blue Room, The Cubby, Reading Pods, The Creative Bench, Aerial Play and the 3D Wall, the grown-ups can either join in the fun – and they do lots of the time – and then revive themselves with coffee, homemade and local cakes, breakfast, lunch or supper in The Dining Room. Or they can just head straight for the coffee and cake, where like so many independent food and drink retailers in Harrogate, the fresh produce on the menu is sourced locally.
Rachael picks out the Blue Room as one of the favourites for her customers and for her team. The room is literally all blue and is full of large and – yes, you’ve guessed it – blue shapes which the children use to build and create. “Every week we see children spending hours building cars, robots, houses, we love that,” she laughs.
The Reading Pods are also a favourite. Children can take a book from the library and settle into their own comfy space to read. “There’s loads of new and interesting books and it’s lovely and reassuring to see,” Rachael says.
She and her team of 12 full-time and part-time staff work hard to engage the children and care for the adults. Customers can pay for two hours or for unlimited play and the age range is between six months and 10 years.
The ideal customer is someone who comes to Goose, looking for something different and there’s plenty of those in Harrogate. “The expectations are high,” she claims, adding: “There’s a sense of community here and we meet a really interesting mix of people. It’s an exciting and beautiful place to do business and we are constantly challenged.”
But it’s a challenge Rachael welcomes. She worked in hospitality and sales in London, then Dubai and India and learnt not only about finances and budgets but what motivated her. She says she has a passion for people and believes that service and experience are key.
She cautions that it’s not always easy to achieve but she considers it her business to take care of the guests, be generous and make them feel at home. “We often deal with adults who are tired, slightly frazzled or simply don’t have enough hands on the day. We are good at anticipating needs and always looking for ways to help.”
She knows nothing is ever perfect and, as an independent business, Goose is constantly evolving. She would love to expand within Yorkshire and is always inundated with questions about franchising.
She’s happy to support other independent retailers and mentions the florist Caine of Harrogate, which she says is beautifully put together and stocks exquisite seasonal flowers.
Goose was closed for a short time last year while it was remodelled. “Once we have perfected the formula, the sky will be the limit. Never stop innovating or thinking outside the box. We can always learn and better,” she enthuses, adding: “One day, a market leader in commercial play.”
In the meantime, Goose will continue to offer a place where children – and adults – can grow and learn.
Facebook: Goose – Harrogate