Autumn Snow has always loved children. So it’s only fitting that the 35-year-old Edmonds woman is making her mark locally in the child-care business
Snow recently opened an 8,000-square-foot child-care center in the Edmonds Business Park on 100th Avenue West that can accommodate up to 116 children. It’s the culmination of a 16-year dream for Snow, who herself is the mother of three, with a fourth child on the way in December.
A native of Beaverton, Ore., Snow recalls working in a licensed in-home day care while attending Portland State University. “This is where I began designing my own facility in my head, at the age of 18,” she said. Her aunt, Linda Baker, happened to be running a child care facility in Edmonds — on 76th Avenue West just north of Edmonds-Woodway High School — and invited her niece to relocate “to learn the business,” Snow recalled.
So Snow moved to Edmonds, and earned an early childhood education degree through Lake Washington Technical College. Upon graduating, she became the director of Toddle Time, “where I learned so much about hiring, staffing, enrolling and whatnot,” she said.
For Snow, the career path was perfect. “I have always loved children, especially babies, from as early as I can remember,” she said.
With financing help from her dad, Jim Crawford, at age 24 Snow was able to purchase Toddle Time, which she renamed The Trike Stop. (As a side note, Linda Baker and her daughter Angie Bahm are still in the child care business, as owners of Main Street Kids on Dayton Street.)
Seven years later, Snow opened a second Trike Stop location — also on 76th Avenue West but closer to Swedish Edmonds hospital, with a unique twist: the facility specialized in infant care only.
“The infant location was a huge success,” Snow recalled. “We were offering something that no one in the state of Washington was doing at the time. “
Having an infant care facility “allowed us to keep our other facility full as the infants would transition right up the street,” Snow said. “And our wait list started to grow. We found ourselves in 2013 with a wait list of upwards of 50 families. “
However, The Trike Stop was a victim of its own success. “With child care, you can only enroll more if you have square footage, so we found ourselves stuck,” Snow said. “So for years we looked around Edmonds for a new location or somewhere to build, but space was limited.”
After years of searching, Snow found the perfect location: the Edmonds Business Park, located next to Herfy’s Burgers on 100th Avenue West in the Westgate neighborhood. “It took us a full year to acquire it,” Snow noted. The deal closed on Dec. 31 2015. “We signed the paperwork on New Year’s Eve,” she said.
Snow sold the existing Trike Stops to finance the purchase of the building, which had been sitting mostly vacant for seven years, with the exception of two tenants: Westgate Travel and Edwards Jones. Those tenants have remained, and Snow has also brought in a third: H2 Bookkeeping and Accounting.
After the paperwork was signed, Snow and her business partners – including her husband Wes Snow, her father Jim Crawford and long-time friend and Trike Stop Director Ariel James – went to work to create the expanded Trike Stop facility.
The vacant 8,000 square feet was completely gutted, with new walls, plumbing and HVAC systems. “We have an amazing architect, Richard Okimoto, who just lives two blocks away, who did everything for us,” Snow said. “I don’t think there’s a wall left that is the same.” Snow’s husband Wes, who owns Edmonds-based Saw Construction, “took almost a full year off of clients to make this happen for us,” she said.
The new Trike Stop officially opened in June, and is designed to serve children ranging from infants to age 12. A before- and after-school care program for elementary-age kids will begin when school starts in September, and The Trike Stop is also now offering a part-time preschool program – with morning and afternoon sessions – in addition to full-day care.
While the facility is licensed for 116 families, Snow and James agreed that they don’t anticipate filling the center to capacity. “We on purpose keep our classroom size smaller,” Snow said. “We have goals in mind for each classroom and it’s normally two to three lower than what the state would allow us in each room.”
Both women noted that smaller classrooms make for a better environment for both children and staff, and play a role in the fact that unlike some child-care facilities, the Trike Stop retains its staff for years instead of months.
“The child-care turnover rate is pretty high but many of our employees have been with us for six, seven, 12, even 14 years,” James said.
“We also hire employees looking to work with kids as a career, not just to make ends meet,” James added. “They stay longer because this is where they want to be.”
The Trike Stop has some current job openings, and Snow and James are committed to finding employees “who are quality and love kids.” Lead teachers are required to either have an early childhood education degree or be in the process of obtaining it.
Snow handles the business side of the operation, while James manages the day-to-day operations of the facility. The women have known each other since 2002, when Snow at age 22 hired James, then 19, to work at The Trike Stop. James went on to receive her early childhood education degree and became The Trike Stop director.
“We have spent our whole adult lives together,” Snow said of James. “She’s a dear friend and a member of the family.”
And for the first time, Snow and James are also simultaneously expectant mothers. James, now 32, is due with her first child, a boy, in mid-October.
In addition to the daughter she is expecting in December, Snow has three boys – ages 9, 6 and 10 months. She admitted that having children herself caused her to take a fresh look at the child-care business. “It was a game changer,” she said. “It made you re-think every person you hired, every toy you purchased, the flooring you put in. Being a mom made me have a deep understanding of what these parents needed and what they wanted and how we could best serve them.”
Trike Stop meals, for example, are cooked from scratch and use organic ingredients whenever possible. “We really go out of our way to provide meals that our children will first and foremost eat but also they need to be kid friendly but they also need to be nutritionally sound, “Snow said.
As for the future of the Edmonds Business Park, Snow said she values her current tenants but she also has a vision for the future: That someday, she can attract related businesses “that are great for young families and are owned by women.”
— Story and photos by Teresa Wippel