Close your eyes and imagine a place where kids can be kids and adults can relive their youth in a true family experience. That’s CAMP. Launched by Ben Kaufman, also Buzzfeed’s Chief Commerce Officer and his wife Nikki Kaufman, the experience is meant to create a place where play and adventure come to life.
Opened in December 2018 the 10,000 square foot space nestled in the heart of Manhattan’s Flatiron District is a place where retail and entertainment coincide. Customers (aka Campers) enter the space through Canteen. With a neighborhood general store feel, Canteen offers all the old-school treasures and popular brands like Kids Made Modern and Rockets of Awesome for the next generation of kids. Strategically placed at eye level, kids are encouraged to explore the shelves and rummage through the drawers. It’s everything you’d need to equip your kid for the perfect adventure. Not to feel left out though, products like Homesick candles with scents of campfires, books, and grandma’s kitchen, bring out element of nostalgia for the rents.
What general store would be complete without some sweets? Partnering with New York’s Milk Bar founder Christina Tosi, Camp has created an outpost for a little indulgence. Aside from selling the brands signature bakery items like Crack Pies and B’day Truffles, Milk Bar has engineered some exclusives like a s’more ice cream sundae with charred marshmallows and compost cookie crumbs. While the kids enjoy their sugar high, parents can get their caffeine fix with some Counter Culture coffee.
The fun doesn’t stop there though. Within what looks like a typical bookshelf is actually a secret door—a magical path to where the fun really takes place—Base Camp. Inspired by a nostalgic New England summer camp, the rules are simple: have fun, be alert, don’t be bad, buddy up, and counselors rule (that’s for parents too). The space directory helps visitors orient themselves with all that Base Camp has to offer and pick their path for play.
Starting off at Camper drop-off, an old fashioned station wagon with rear facing seats and a road simulator harkens back to the days of ole and provides the perfect photo op. From there kids can hit the Sports Field to practice their ball skills then pony over to The Lake to enjoy some fun without even making a splash. A wooden dock plays musical notes and creates ripples in a virtual lake.
While there are no actual overnight stays, Base Camp wouldn’t be complete without bunks. These cabins are anything but traditional. Step inside to find not a place of rest, but an abundance of adventure. Slide from one bunk to another to find the Dance Hall, a disco-themed cabin with sequin walls and an infinity dance floor. By now the excitement is building so kids can stop by the Mail Room to send a postcard home to mom and dad or friends about all the fun.
Nearby WCMP Camp Radio lets kids (and us nerdy adults) broadcast the fun with some custom beats. By then you might be hungry, so heading on over to the Mess Hall for edible bubbles is a logical path. Fueled up for more fun, the Arts and Crafts area let the little ones settle down for a bit and release some creative energy. Daily activities like making your own merit badge or paper plate animals are available to participate for a small fee. From there you ought to mosey on over to the official Campitheater to enjoy some of Camp’s regular events like a storybook reading or a Baby Shark freeze dance challenge.
While most camp experiences are temporary, so is what happens behind the secret door. Every 8-12 weeks Camp will rotate a new theme. This one, sponsored by MasterCard, is available until March. Next up could be a study in oceanography or space exploration, we’ll just have to wait and see (or shop).
You might recognize the similarities with New York’s other rotating retail concept Story. Ben happens to have been an early supporter and current investor in Story, and Rachel Shetchman, Story’s founder, is actually an investor in Camp and on the retailer’s board of directors. I guess like minds create alike. Discussing the Camp concept, Rachel stated, “Story appeals to both adults and kids, its narratives are not specific to families or kids. Camp is focused on families specifically. There are very few places for families to go that evoke a feeling of play and joy, with a great toy offering, and Camp is an answer to that. People want a higher return on investment for their time.”
Camp demonstrates a retail trend we’ve watched evolve over that last couple of years where retailers are ditching the static store strategy and adopting an events programming strategy to the retail experience. With constantly changing themes it encourages customers to keep coming back for more. What makes this concept even more unique though is it’s catering to families and creating a place where children and their parents can enjoy together.