Williamsburg play space Frolic! lets toddlers rock out
Carey Balogh and Julia Dawson were both in the fashion world when they met as new moms and neighbors. Feeling a distinct lack of available social activities they could enjoy with other moms and their kids, the two were inspired to start Frolic!, a rock ‘n’ roll play space for kids in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Frolic! holds everything from concerts to cooking classes to birthdays to craft projects, all under a rock ‘n’ roll theme. The activities are crazy creative and best of all, fun for parents and kids. We spoke to Balogh and Dawson about being momtrepreneurs, starting a business with a friend, and what makes Frolic! so unique. —Hally Wolhandler
ES: How did you end up changing careers to open Frolic! together? How did you choose Williamsburg?
CB: We met because we both moved into the same building in Williamsburg in 2007, and we were also both in the fashion industry. I was a PR director, and Julia was a fashion design director. Then, we had our sons [now 4] three months apart, so we sort of met again as new moms working crazy hours.
JD: I was travelling to Asia for three weeks at a time. It was exhausting. We both wanted to do something different. I had my baby in the middle of December and I felt sort of isolated. We both longed for a place that was cool, that we could connect to—we weren’t into those ball crawl places for kids. Carey’s husband is a concert producer and so there are all of these photos of stars in her basement. We used to hang out with the kids there, and one day we dreamed up the idea of doing fun rock ‘n’ roll activities with other moms that would be visually stimulating for the kids and us—we wouldn’t be entertaining our kids at the expense of our own enjoyment with friends. So we started holding these musical play dates in her basement.
CB: Then Julia came to me with the idea of making this a real business. We knew our skills would complement each other’s well, so we dove in and never looked back. We didn’t know how we were going to find the money, but we were the market, and this was something we wanted. Also, it was before the New York Times ran the article “Williamsburg, Toddlertown.” We were just starting to notice strollers and pregnant women on every corner, so we could literally see our market developing.
ES: What makes Frolic! so rock ‘n’ roll?
CB: We have a custom designed playground in the spirit of freedom and rock ‘n’ roll. There’s an authentic VW bus that we had children’s museum designers transform into an interactive play structure. The horn goes beep beep, the lights go on, the kids can turn the wheel—and they can bring their parents in! There’s also the Rolling Stones-inspired tongue slide. And we have a mini stage that lights up, and a backstage lounge with little leather couches for the kids to sit on.
JD: We’re in the process of putting the finishing touches on our new record store installation, which also includes two listening stations. We also have our own three-piece house band, Little Rock-its by Frolic! They lead all of our music classes and children’s rock concerts.
CB: The parents love it. Every week we focus on a different rock ‘n’ roll artist. So there’s been a Rolling Stones Week and a Fleetwood Mac week. This week is Stevie Wonder, and the band is covering all of his music with the children.
ES: Who came up with all of Frolic!’s great birthday party ideas?
JD: That’s my area of direction. We wanted to offer something more unique than what everyone else was doing. One of our birthday themes is “Guitars and Rock Stars”t, so we had a custom video made by a local artist who put together videos of rock star performances, and we play it at the party. We have a performer who teaches the kids the Jump from Van Halen, and other signature rock ‘n’ roll moves. The party ends with a big dance party. When the kids walk in, they feel like they’re going to a big concert—the lights go on and the crowd cheers for them. That’s our most popular party. We really go all out. The parties are all-inclusive, and every little detail is taken care of. We decorate with the utmost care and taste. That’s really kind of what we’re all about.
ES: What kind of activities do you do at Frolic! that aren’t strictly musical?
JD: We have art, dance, musical theater, cooking. But we keep the rock ‘n’ roll theme throughout our classes—for our cooking class one week, the theme was Fleetwood Mac, and we made Fleetwood Mac and cheese. This week’s theme is the Red Hot Chili Peppers. We do two recipes and a craft, and we all do a song at the beginning.
CB: Our art teacher was actually the Scenic Director for Beasts of the Southern Wild, so she’s going to the Oscars! She created the whole art program for us.
ES: What does Frolic! have that similar places don’t?
CB: We had a big concert at the Music Hall of Williamsburg for the holiday and we nearly sold out the space. Our Little Rock-its by Frolic! band performed, and Santa was there, too! It was a full on rock show but it was catered to the little ones. We want to continue to do these concerts and lead the way for children’s rock concerts and family activities. Katie Holmes has been here with Suri Cruise, Matthew Bellamy has brought his son with Kate Hudson, and Jemima Kirke is a fan. There are so many creative families! It’s great. There’s a great community vibe.
JD: We really strive to make a unique experience. Today we had an art class and the project was based on Banksy. We all made murals together on a brick wall. So we like doing projects that are current and creative.
CB: Right. Julia was in fashion design, and I was in fashion PR, so we have really high aesthetic standards. Our background makes us so detail-oriented. Everything has to be perfect.
ES: How do you split your roles?
CB: Julia’s the visionary. She designed the entire playground, the logo. The whole creative process is all her, and I still handle the PR and marketing and membership. We each have our different responsibilities. We took a playful tongue-in-cheek approach to our titles. Mine is “Cofounder and Dancing Queen” and Julia’s is “Cofounder and Moonage Daydreamer” because she loves David Bowie.