Interview with Annie Tandy
Annie Tandy is the owner and creator of Kidlist, a resource for kid-friendly activities, events, and classes in Chicago’s western suburbs.
Since Kidlist has an audience of over 850,000 per year, many Thomas Ford patrons know about it. For those who don’t, give us a thumbnail sketch.
Kidlist is an online resource for families in the western suburbs who want to find out about local activities, events, and classes. We curate lists of things to do, give inside information about places to go, announce new and exciting business openings, and help parents, grandparents, and caregivers plan fun days with the special kids in their lives. Everything can be found at mykidlist.com and you can stay up to date by receiving our email newsletter and following our Facebook and Instagram accounts. Read more about our story, meet the team, and sign up on our About page: https://mykidlist.com/about.
Kidlist just celebrated its 10th anniversary. Congratulations! What milestones have marked your journey? How did the pandemic affect things?
It has definitely been a journey and so much fun. In 2015, after four years of managing Kidlist by myself, I hired our first Kidlist team member, Liz Haskins. She was a Content Contributor who wrote articles, and having another team member was so encouraging. From there, the team grew to include up to ten women from across the suburbs. Forming a team helped us be more comprehensive and inclusive while keeping up with increasing readership!
The pandemic, of course, changed things for us. The events calendar became the most challenging piece of Kidlist. We had to change the method and frequency with which we compiled community events given all of the constant change. Thankfully, we are finally seeing fewer events being canceled, so it is easier to provide accurate and timely information.
Could you share one or two special memories?
There are so many special memories that have come from Kidlist. Small passing comments from moms saying how much the site has helped their family make my day and keep me going. The support I received while having my first table at Gathering on the Green in 2012 was also unforgettable. The random Sunday afternoon call I received from Whole Foods Market telling me that they wanted to sponsor Kidlist in the early years made my jaw hit the floor. I wasn’t quite sure how to respond at the time! They became a sponsor for many years until the company regionalized and stopped doing in-store events.
We know Kidlist has a number of local sponsors and that you serve on the Board of the Western Springs Business Association. Tell us a bit about the business end of your enterprise.
I love this part of Kidlist’s story. I didn’t start the site as a business venture; I just wanted to help other moms in the same stage of life and share ideas. As the site grew, it became apparent that businesses needed an authentic way of reaching families, and the friendships I have formed with local business owners mean a lot to me. We don’t advertise any businesses that we wouldn’t personally recommend. We partner with businesses to promote what they offer and they support the free resource that we provide. It benefits everyone and enables us to continue doing what we do. The business community is incredibly supportive and I really enjoy giving back through the Western Springs Business Association.
This enterprise grew out of your own motherhood. Tell us about your family.
When I started Kidlist, my daughter was six months old and my son was 3 years old. Now they are eleven and thirteen! Now my son is into playing tennis, volleyball, video games, and hanging out with his friends, and my daughter loves volleyball, arts, crafts, reading, and meeting friends uptown. I genuinely love spending time with my kids and find that we have the best conversations while riding in the car or right before bed. Since I don’t want to stay up in their rooms until midnight every night, I’m always looking for fun things to do during the day. So bring on the adventures!
How long have you lived in Western Springs? What changes have you seen in that time?
We moved to Western Springs from Beverly when I was three years old and my parents still live in the house I grew up in. In fact, we bought the house across the street from them and my sister and her family live two doors down from my parents. We love being on the same block and my son recently told me that he wants to buy a house in Western Springs when he gets older so we can all stay close!
I love that some of the businesses in Western Springs have been around forever, like Casey’s Market and Kirschbaum’s Bakery. I remember Katie from Casey’s when I was little and she still looks the same to me! It was always a huge deal to get a smiley face cookie from Kirschbaum’s in my lunchbox, and it’s fun to carry on that tradition. There are some things I miss, like going to The Creative Door to buy craft supplies, looking for movies at Showtime Video, and biking to White Hen Pantry to buy watermelon Jolly Rancher sticks on the way to the pool. My friends from McClure were actually the first women hired to stock the shelves at Tischler’s! That’s crazy to think about now. I’m happy that Western Springs has so many original businesses but has also added new and vibrant businesses and restaurants that continue to give our town a lot of character.
We know you enjoy gardening and were responsible for the Community Garden at Field Park for many years, and that you have chickens. Could you expand on these enthusiasms a little, as well as any other interests?
I really enjoy working with my hands and creating. Growing up, I always painted and still have many of my paintings hanging in our house. Then I moved on to knitting and soap making. I don’t have a ton of free time, but when I do, I love working on those types of projects. I got into gardening because I love being outside and that desire for sunshine segued into growing our own food and keeping chickens. Getting back to basics appeals to me, and being in our yard taking care of the garden and hanging out with our chickens brings me joy. It was so fulfilling to watch the kids at Field Park get excited about planting and learning about how to grow all different types of fruits, vegetables, and herbs.
When we search for “library” on Kidlist, a lot of hits come up, which is great to see. How do you and your family use the Thomas Ford Library?
The library is the best! When my kids were younger I looked forward to taking them to storytime each week and we would always stay to play and check out books. I enjoy reading, knitting, and even working on Kidlist from my laptop at the library, especially by the fireplace. The librarians give us great recommendations for books! We also think it’s pretty fantastic that we can check out movies for a rainy day and audiobooks for road trips too.
What do you like to read with your children? On your own?
I miss the days of reading picture books with my kids, but we still read aloud together before bed. My son leans towards dystopian fiction and my daughter loves a good mystery, but I’ll read just about anything with them. Whatever gets them excited about reading! I always enjoy page-turners, like mysteries and thrillers, and my book club tends to read historical fiction, which I’ve come to love. I’m always up for suggestions!
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