A crowd last month packed the colorful, large, new Crayola Experience Chandler — one of five in the country — when it opened at Chandler Fashion Center.
Standing out with vibrant red, blue, yellow, green and other bold colors on every surface, as well as pictures of the iconic Crayola crayons figures, multiple machines and devices and dancing animation on many screens, the new family destination hosted a fun-filled ribbon-cutting.
The approximately 20,000-square-foot new business houses 19, hands-on creative activities that merge the traditional pleasures of coloring with Crayola crayons and unusual, modern technological tools, in a spot around the corner from the food court.
Adjacent to the Crayola Experience Chandler is The Crayola Store, a retail space with the world’s biggest selection of Crayola products and unusual souvenirs.
Crayola CEO Smith Holland, as well as Chandler Mayor Kevin Hartke, senior property manager for Chandler Fashion Center David Moss, Crayola Experience Chandler general manager Conor O’Lowney and Chandler Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Terri Kimble expressed their enthusiasm about the new attraction opening at the ribbon-cutting event.
Hartke gave Holland a symbolic key to the city and revealed a certificate for him and Holland to sign.
Holland took out a two-pound crayon with a City of Chandler label and in a playful gesture Hartke and Holland both signed the certificate.
After a ribbon was cut, confetti was shot into the air and a long line of adults and children hurried into the store to explore.
“This is a great day,” Holland said. “It’s a way to experience creativity in a larger-than-life way. We’re very excited about this area. I hope you enjoy the Crayola Experience.”
Hartke, who wore Crayola socks in two different colors, said the new operation would benefit the city and mall and be a great place for families with children and grandchildren to make memories.
“This is one of the fastest growing regions in the United States,” Hartke said. “This is an exciting addition to our Chandler Fashion Center.”
Moss said the Chandler mall’s goal is to “be a community gathering place” and the Crayola Experience helps the center achieve that as it offers lots of hands-on activities.
“Crayola is such a recognized brand and this experience was so well-known from its other locations,” Moss said. “It was a mutual thing. I think for us, our focus as a shopping center is on experiences. Adding Crayola is a big piece of that.”
Known for its Crayola crayon, first introduced in 1903, Crayola LLC, a subsidiary of Hallmark Cards, Incorporated, has expanded to art tools, crafting activities and creativity toys that allow youths to use color to make anything they imagine.
Hartke and Councilman Matt Orlando tapped into one of the Crayola Experience’s creative activities — Drip Art — where melted wax is spun to create textured artwork.
He created his name in the wax while Orlando made a smiley face. Hartke said his grandbaby and adult children had already visited the attraction with him.
“It is a good time, too, with school just getting out” and parents looking for activities for their children to do in the summer, Hartke said.
“This mall has done a great job in expanding its opportunities to be more than retail, but (also) experiences,” he said. “I think it’s fantastic. You could be here for hours with your kids.”
Orlando also enjoyed the Crayola Experience Chandler.
“It is wild, nothing in my imagination,” he said. “I love it when they go from toddlers to grandparents. People keep saying the malls are dying. This is what it’s all about. It’s going to drive more foot traffic here.”
Holland beamed as he shared his enthusiasm about the newest location.
“It’s been great,” he said. “We’re really excited about this area. It’s full of kids. This is a market we’ve always been interested in, a lot of young families. It allows you to do creative activities and fun things you’ve always done but on a bigger scale.”
While technology has changed over the years, Crayola’s mission is still to help “parents and teachers raise creatively alive kids,” Holland said.
One popular activity is “Wrap It Up!” That is where people pick from one of the bright colors of crayons, type a name and design for the wrapper and print and then wrap the crayon in it. Customers can take home everything they make at the attraction with all supplies provided.
Another experience “Be A Star” allows people to have their picture taken, then a cartoon version of it appears on a coloring page with fun background details they can take home and color.
They can try out “Melt & Mold,” where they watch wax crayons turn into cars or rings.
Customers may also watch pictures come to life including dragons that they color on paper and scan onto a computer, where it moves with colorful background scenery in the “Color Magic” station.
Children and adults can make colors dance around on a huge screen in “Rainbow Rain” and color and style their own cars or fashion designs and then watch the cars burn rubber as they race and models show off the clothes on runways in the “You Design” area.
“There is quite a lot to do,” Victoria Lozano, senior vice-president and general manager of Crayola Attractions & Retail said. “This is really meant to be…a family experience.”
About 100 to 150 part-time workers are in place at the Chandler business and 12 full-time employees, Lozano said.
Crayola Experience Chandler is open 365 days a year, Mondays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The Crayola Store is open until 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and until 6 p.m. Sundays. It costs $14.99 at the door for general admission to the Crayola Experience Chandler and $13.99 if bought online.
Customers can buy annual passes for $29.99 for a year of unlimited visits. Kids under 2 are free.