Play’s the Thing

Sisters Christen Bryant and Elissa Briley have opened Play Town Square at 651 Washington Road. The drop-in play center for kids accompanied by parents offers toys and activities for creative play.


Two years ago, Elissa Briley, Castle Shannon Boulevard, was having what she describes as a “weird day at work,” at PNC Bank. She grabbed a coffee and tried to work through it while talking to her sister, Christen Bryant, Arden Lane, on the phone. What started as normal chit-chat turned into a conversation about Bryant’s idea to open a boutique children’s museum in Mt. Lebanon, where parents could get out of the house and let their kids play in an open, safe, creative environment. Briley was all in.

Two years later, the sisters opened Play Town Square, 651 Washington Road, a kids’ drop-in play center. Stocked full of creative toys, books, arts and crafts, projects and a custom “downtown” area of Lilliput Play Homes and buildings, Play Town Square is one large room, where parents can see their kids without running around. The city center includes a market with groceries and hardware, a public safety center, houses, a post office and a school bus. Tables enable parents to work on laptops or socialize with other parents.

“We want to give kids a chance to use their imaginations,” Bryant says of the selections of activities and toys.

Parents and kids do not need reservations or a membership to the center; parents must stay. The center, in the same building as the north parking garage and a short walk from the Academy Avenue parking lot, is wi-fi equipped and although it does not serve food, parents may bring in coffee. The play fee is $11 per child for as long as they want to stay. To encourage people to visit often, the toy selection will change each month.

The Briley sisters grew up in Scott and left for college, returning to the South Hills 12 years later, and eventually settling in Mt. Lebanon at the urging of their brother, Rick Briley, who lives on Mapleton.

Briley lights up when she speaks about the center and the business venture side of things. “My happiest and most successful customers [were] people who had an idea and made it work,” she says of her years in wealth management.

A Liliput play city sparks imagination

Bryant got the idea for the center after visiting others in other cities she’s lived. She works in marketing for U-Haul and had been living in Texas, where she visited many such places. But when she moved back to Pennsylvania and her children were invited to birthday parties, she found there was no similar place nearby. “That’s just silly that we don’t have something like this in Mt. Lebanon,” she thought.

A small retail area will carry toys, puzzles and other takeaways. The center will use all-natural cleaning products. “I think we are both pretty passionate about keeping kids safe,” Bryant says.

Hours are: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Thursday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., with special events planned for Saturdays. Birthday party times are available evenings and Saturdays.

Photography by Elizabeth Hruby McCabe