Antonia Peck meets the founders of Maggie & Rose, a private family members club, and discovers why parents need it just as much as their children!
Maggie & Rose is a private members club with a difference – it’s specifically aimed at the little lords and ladies, the children of the intelligentsia who for too long have been subjected to being dragged by their parents to uninspiring crèches and typically child un-friendly coffee shops. More often than not, the experience is unfulfilling for both parent and child so the prospect of a members club dedicated to soft play, inspiring classes and workshops with good coffee and food should be sung from the rooftops! Indeed, the formula has been so successful that the two sites in Chiswick and Kensington in London are only the start of the global ambitions of its founders, Maggie Bolger and Rose Astor.
As it turns out, Maggie has just recently returned from a scouting trip for Maggie & Rose’s first international site. ‘‘We are looking at going global – New York, Hong Kong, Singapore, Abu Dhabi and Sydney – everyday there is a new country approaching us,’’ she reveals.
That the Maggie & Rose vision could work abroad is, in many ways, a no-brainer. Many of the club’s current members are global families and the British education system has significant cache all around the world – so why not apply a baby and child family members club abroad? I wanted to know if they intended to adapt aspects of the club to the specific countries in question, but apparently now that the Maggie & Rose clubs are known as a ‘‘quintessentially British concept,’’ they plan to work with ex-pat countries where ‘‘British education is very important, and places where parents want their children to start to learn the foundations of English.’’
The Maggie & Rose brand is also based on quality, food, familiarity of the classes and the amazing interiors that will be replicated in each new club. Their cosmopolitan client base has spread the word and set the stage for an international presence.
So what is their formula and why is it so magical for children? According to Maggie, it is because they were “the first to build upon this real gap in the market for a business of this kind. There was a real need from parents to have somewhere to go with their child. In this day and age, people are so often just trying to hash-up or re-do ideas that have come before – but actually, we were the first to try something new. Our attention to detail has kept us ahead of the curve – we get the best architects and the best teachers.’’ They have to think like Maggie & Rose and follow their philosophy of excellence in child development.
As a new mother to a sixteen month old baby, the most appealing aspects of the clubs were that I would finally have somewhere to go for lunch and not have to face the rolled eyes of customers who were disappointed at the prospect of a baby ruining the peace! At Maggie & Rose, the restaurant clearly knows their audience, with tissues and napkins at every table and a menu including Ella’s Kitchen for fussy eating moments, green juices and hearty, healthy comfort foods that soothe little ones and parents alike. My child particularly likes eating the mini sausages from the child’s size frying pan – why not?!
Then there are the soft play areas that involve: giant Lego, Brio wooden toys, mini trampolines, fancy dress clothes, plastic dinosaurs, reading corners….etc! Simply put, there are a cavalcade of activities and things to do, and the happy faces from all this playing makes for visibly more relaxed parents. Warm and welcoming, with staff fully versed in the art of charm, the clubs provide an oasis of fun for little ones and a carefree space to relax, watch or participate for parents.
Both Maggie & Rose used the drive of new motherhood to build a business and brand that has created a new model in childcare: a place for children and parents. Rose believes that Maggie’s mantra that ‘‘red tape is a skipping rope’’ is how Maggie & Rose exists as it does today. “Time and time again people have said ‘you can’t do that’ and ‘you won’t get planning for that’ and it has been Maggie’s determination that has made it happen.” She knows the intricacies of the business inside out and even created all the classes with learning through imagination being the essence of all the sessions. She also designed all the interiors, including placing a 1970s double decker bus in the garden of the Chiswick club, which she sourced and drove to the site herself. Clearly, this is a woman who knows how to turn ideas into a tangible reality. Both Maggie and Rose are funny, warm-hearted and knowledgeable about what they want and how they’re going to get it. However, one of the loveliest things is seeing their own children enjoying the club – truly the club’s best ambassadors.
There are some fantastic classes available to members, such as creative play classes that are set up in a way that you just could not replicate at home (too messy, too expansive!). These ‘‘Make & Make Believe’’ classes also teach you to be an imaginative parent and include painting, gardening, dancing and cooking with your child. It is an incredibly nurturing place with a family membership scheme that means grandparents are welcome too.
Another draw are their engaging ‘‘In The Know’’ speaker events for parents in the evenings, that include inspirational, entrepreneurial and wellness talks from professionals and experts who understand the dichotomy of being a parent in 2015.