WILLIAMS LAKE – If you are a small business in a small town, how do you know your community loves you?

You may first realize it when customers pitch in to help cover $3,000 in deductibles after thieves smash your store windows.

You see it again when an artisan drives three hours to your store to install beautiful, custom-crafted grillwork on your windows, all at cost.

It is conclusively proven in 2019 when community votes make you one of five finalists in the BC Small Business Premier People’s Choice award.

That last proof amazed Jazmyn Douillard, who co-owns Realm of Toys with her parents Richard and Joan Douillard. “We were so busy we forgot to encourage our community to vote – and we still made it into the top five,” she said.

Established in 2013, Realm of Toys is a family-owned initiative that specializes in unique toys, all things nerd, and community spirit. Motivated and innovative, the store is both a retail outlet and a community centre in Williams Lake.

Each family members adds a different strength to the team. Richard contributes the woodwork that transforms the store’s interior into a magical experience; Joan finds the best educational/imaginative toys; and graphic designer Jazmyn cultivates the “Nerd Corner.” Jazmyn’s fiancé, Terry Lyons, added cabinetry skills, working with Jazmyn to build the store’s front desk. Six gallons of custom tinted resin added additional whimsy.

The family bought the store in November 2013. It was originally a book store. At the time, the community’s only toy store was closing. So by February 2014, they had switched the bookstore to Realm of Toys, which offered toys, books, collectibles, and a space for birthday parties and events.

They felt the community needed more family-friendly events so used the store as a base to initiate some. “We had the means to do this so we did.”

They work with the downtown business association to support the Art Walk, Winter Lights, and Spring into Downtown. With the heritage property, Potato House, they host the Hallowe’en Haunted Taters. In December, they present “Selfies with Santa” and in August they hold the Nerdy Garage Sale of collectables and comic books. In addition, there are constant contests and smaller events, all supporting community.

Coming up is their third annual Easter Festival, to be held on April 21 from noon to 3 p.m. Activities include photos with the Easter Bunny, an Easter Egg Hunt at the Potato House, and a street fair. All activities are by voluntary donation, ensuring everyone can participate.

Last August they added an additional 1,000 square feet by moving to their new home at 190A Oliver Street. Online they have a Facebook page and at website at realmoftoys.ca.