New ownership at Growth Spurts means more programming, new food options

Emily Williams loves two things: theatre and kids. It’s a combination that has led the Columbia College graduate and former kids’ theatre teacher to who she is today: the new owner of Wilmette’s Growth Spurts.

Williams, who began working at the indoor play space and café three years ago purchased the business from its original owner, Ellen McCue six months ago. Williams said although the place is already top-notch, kids and moms are sure to notice some changes.

“We have so many new things happening this fall,” said Williams, an acting major in college who in the past taught after school programs and camps at theatre companies that include Emerald City’s Little Theatre in Lakeview. “I’ve added music classes, a Frozen birthday party package, and every Wednesday we’ll have character appearances such as Spiderman, the little mermaid, and characters from Frozen who will lead an interactive story time.”

Williams also said moms and kids will now be able to order organic, farm to table meals that include sushi, salads, sandwiches and hummus delivered from Growth Spurt’s neighbor, Artisanal.

“What I noticed is that around noon, people started to leave because it was lunch time,” she said. “With this extended menu, the playtime can last longer because you don’t have to go somewhere to get lunch.”

Growth Spurts, which was opened in 2011 by McCue and her younger sister, Devin – both teachers in early childhood education provides a balance of active and passive activities for kids from birth to 6 years old.

McCue, who has a 5-year-old and 7-year-old said she and Devin chose to create an environment that offered play-based learning.

“We took what we knew about child development and made it a place where children can learn while having fun, and where moms can both play with them and socialize with other moms,” she said.

McCue said she knew almost immediately after hiring her that Williams was a perfect fit for Growth Spurts.

“Her desire to connect with families stuck out, which is what we support,” said McCue, who also owns Summer Stuff Day Camps in Evanston and Wilmette, and sold Growth Spurts to return to teaching. “If someone comes in more than one time, Emily knows their name and something specific about the child, like their favorite book. She genuinely cares.”

Although extremely difficult to leave, McCue said selling to Williams made the transition much easier.

“The day I walked out of Growth Spurts, I was really sad because I was walking away from something I was proud of, something I built that means something to people,” she said. “But I knew that it was in the best hands possible. Emily has a passion for teaching and that’s really what we do there.”

Williams, who called McCue her mentor and “the big sister I never had,” said taking on the new role was scary at first, but that high energy and passion for teaching will be the drivers of her success.

“There are so many moments when I see parents get their phone out to take a picture because there’s something special happening that they need to capture it,” Williams said. “My dream is to help create those moments often.”

Jen Bruno of Northfield is a mom of two young children, who said she goes to Growth Spurts once or twice a week.

“It’s because of Emily,” she said. “She does everything with them. She reads to them, plays hide and seek, and really gets them involved.”

“For Emily, this isn’t just her business, it’s a home away from home,” said McCue. “She has an unbelievable talent in creative drama, and kids gravitate towards her.”

Growth Spurts

Address: 404 Linden Ave.

Specialties: pizza and arancini

Website: www.agrowthspurt.com

Phone: (847) 850-9059

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