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Rohnert Park toy store becomes gathering place for kids, families

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Fundemonium

Want to go?

Fundemonium is more than just a toy store. It’s become a community hub, hosting a variety of activities, including board game nights, slot cars racing and birthday parties.

Where: 579 Rohnert Park Expressway W., Rohnert Park

Hours: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday

Contact: 707-800-4060. fundemoniumtoys.com.

––––––

Upcoming events

Fundemonium hosts several activities throughout the year. Here are a few events happening at the store in the coming days:

• Game Night from 6-9 p.m. Thursday.

• Historical Miniatures Game Day, hosted by the Friday Night Gamers of Cotati, from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday.

• Star Wars Lego Contest from 2-4 p.m. May 4.

Slot car and remote control vehicle rentals are available for use on Fundemonium tracks.

Unsuspecting shoppers at Fundemonium may be startled by occasional cheers or spirited shouting from the back of the Rohnert Park toy, hobby and game store. That’s where families, friends and specialty groups gather for a mix of fun activities, from racing slot cars to building scale models to launching stomp rockets.

When owners Steve and Jean Elliott relocated their store after 10 years in Petaluma, they wanted to create a community gathering place where like-minded hobbyists could meet up and share their pursuits. Their larger space has allowed them to expand on the hospitality that began in Petaluma.

Today, after nearly five years in Rohnert Park, Fundemonium has something going on every day of the week. Those festive cheers and shouts reflect the efforts the Elliotts have made to promote events and host a wide variety of activities.

On a recent weekend, the International Plastic Modelers Society of Sonoma County presented a spring model show; Cub Scouts gathered for a Pinewood Derby competition; and children posed for photos with the Easter Bunny — all while shoppers browsed the toy aisles.

Steve, 58, recalls a customer once telling him it’s not likely to visit Fundemonium “without hearing people laughing and cheering.” The customer added, “It’s kind of cool.”

Parties (guided by a Fundemonium host) are big, too, whether for birthdays, sports-league celebrations or school field trips. Themes include science, crafts and racing. During an Animal Creation Party, kids give dimension to plush toys like ladybugs and bears with help from a fluffing machine. “We like to say 10 friends show up for a party and 20 friends go home,” Steve said about the popular stuffed animal parties.

The Elliotts also run a snack corner, something especially convenient during long events, like a recent North Bay Dungeons & Dragons gathering that went on for 12 hours. Visitors can order food like pizza, hot dogs and burritos, as well as soft drinks and ice cream novelties at Funbot’s Snack Bar, named for Fundemonium’s robot mascot.

Located in the Expressway Marketplace shopping center, Fundemonium dedicates almost half of its 14,000-square-foot business for activity spaces. It’s spacious enough to stock a broad selection of games, toys and hobby supplies for all ages, from crafts kits for kids to tracks and scenery items for model train enthusiasts well into their senior years.

The front of the store features a demonstration area where even some of the youngest guests can test the inventory.

“We put lots of our new toys out and as many demos as possible,” said Jean, 55. “First, it’s just fun, and it helps people figure out what they want to get.”

Another popular attraction is the kids’ activity area, or Wonderground, that includes a child-sized kitchen, building stations and numerous hands-on activities in a large, fenced-in section of the store. There’s a nominal fee for drop-in play, with free play for preschoolers from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. during “Momnificent Monday” sessions for youngsters and their parents or guardians.

While little kids can find a world of fun in the Wonderground, visitors of all ages can gather for special events, game nights, club meetings, Scout workshops and competitions. Holidays are always a hit, with the Elliotts hosting such activities as Valentine’s Day crafts-making or building leprechaun “traps” for St. Patrick’s Day.

Fundemonium

Want to go?

Fundemonium is more than just a toy store. It’s become a community hub, hosting a variety of activities, including board game nights, slot cars racing and birthday parties.

Where: 579 Rohnert Park Expressway W., Rohnert Park

Hours: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday

Contact: 707-800-4060. fundemoniumtoys.com.

––––––

Upcoming events

Fundemonium hosts several activities throughout the year. Here are a few events happening at the store in the coming days:

• Game Night from 6-9 p.m. Thursday.

• Historical Miniatures Game Day, hosted by the Friday Night Gamers of Cotati, from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday.

• Star Wars Lego Contest from 2-4 p.m. May 4.

Slot car and remote control vehicle rentals are available for use on Fundemonium tracks.

The monthly calendar might include gatherings of the Wine Country Modelers, the Redwood Empire Model Shipwrights, Gundam robot- builders or home-school groups. Fans of Star Wars and Pokémon gather for their specific pursuits, while board game nights introduce players to Pandemic, a cooperative- play game where teams work together to save humanity from four deadly diseases simultaneously exploding across the globe.

“Cooperative games are very popular right now for kids and adults,” Steve said.

The Elliotts said games have been rediscovered, particularly over the past two years, in what Steve calls “an explosion in interest.”

Players are drawn to board games and those involving miniature models, like the warriors and fighting vehicles featured in Warhammer 40K tabletop battles set in the faraway future.

Fundemonium carries everything from classic games like Monopoly and Scrabble to European-style board games with creative themes and deep storylines.

The shelves also feature Qwirkle, a tile-based game for ages 6 and up created by Petaluma game designer Susan McKinley Ross, and Perplexus, a 3D maze game invented by Santa Rosa Junior College art instructor Michael McGinnis. He came up with the concept back when he was a junior at Petaluma’s Casa Grande High School. Both are award-winning games.

Puzzles are popular, too, from wooden-peg puzzles for toddlers to 1,500-piece jigsaw puzzles with challenging pictures to piece together.

“You wouldn’t believe how many puzzles we sell,” Jean said. “There are a lot of puzzlers in Sonoma County.”

The staff at Fundemonium keeps up with trends and can direct shoppers to popular and more obscure items. Remote control vehicles (from hot rods to construction equipment), scale models in a wide range of varieties and miniature gaming have enjoyed steady popularity, and Lego toy building bricks have never gone out of favor.

“Legos have been around forever. Nobody thinks of them as old-fashioned,” Steve said.

Fundemonium also carries classic toys like Etch A Sketches, whoopee cushions, magic eight balls and Breyer model horses, among many items popular generations ago. There are infant toys; tactile items like sparkling putty, super-stretchy slime and soft, round squishy characters called Squishamals; model slot car sets and accessories; and everything from remote control vehicles to the parts necessary to keep them moving.

What shoppers won’t find, though, are video games. The Elliotts stock a robotics area, science-based toys, rockets, drones and numerous other products designed for interactive fun, creativity and learning.

Visitors can test their driving skills, whether operating a remote control vehicle or slot car. Fundemonium has a remote control foam track that can be configured for various ages and skill levels, a four-lane digital slot car track and a rock-crawling course that requires skill and patience to prevent crashes. All are indoors and popular rainy-day attractions.

For the Elliotts, parents of two grown children, Mary, 27, and Cameron, 24, Fundemonium is more than a business or workplace — it’s a way to be engaged in and give back to their community.

They both left stable jobs to open the store; Steve was an architect and later developed customer training for a tech company, and Jean developed database software for managing community centers.

The independent store owners find great satisfaction knowing Fundemonium is a community hub, and hope to create an even larger presence in the Rohnert Park area. They’ve set up activities at the local farmers market and have gone off-site for business team-building events.

Jean said it’s rewarding when she sees customers “interacting even when they don’t know each other.” For she and her husband, those interactions — along with the occasional shouts and cheers — are what Fundemonium is all about.

“That’s what I live for,” Steve said. “That’s why we open the doors to do what we do.”

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