CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Carmen Martinez started Tots N Socks in Corpus Christi after noticing a need for a place where parents could bring their young children to enjoy a place to play.
Martinez runs a business in the Dallas-Forth Worth area. When she wanted to throw a party for her 3-year-old son in the Coastal Bend where she used to live and still has family, she realized there was nowhere she could host it.
“Having to bring our equipment down to do our son’s birthday party kind of triggered us to understand that there was nothing really down here for younger kids,” she said.
In January, Martinez started Tots N Socks Mobile Parties, bringing parties on the road to cities and towns across the Coastal Bend.
“We set up in the garage, we set up on patios, event centers, parks," she said. "We are always willing to make it work for you."
Martinez said because of the pandemic, people were very receptive to her business, wishing to book parties where their kids did not have to interact with any children they didn’t know.
“People started turning to me to have that birthday party option for their small child, to still be able to feel normal, not having to cancel birthdays,” she said.
In May, Tots N Socks Event & Play Center opened in Corpus Christi. The storefront provides a place where parents can not only plan a birthday party, but they can also bring them to play for just a day, with an affordable $10 price tag to play for two hours.
Martinez said the play place is great for parents, especially new parents, to have a controlled environment for their kids to play at where they don’t have to worry about weather.
“Now, you can say, ‘I’m packing up, and we’re going to Tots N Socks, and we’re going to go have fun, and we’re going to make the best out of a rainy day, a sunny day, a hot day,’” she said.
Tots N Socks also takes its sanitation seriously.
Martinez, a former nurse, knows how important sanitization is, especially during a pandemic.
The staff at Tots N Socks constantly wipes down equipment, with an alarm every hour reminding them to do so, and the products are deep-cleaned every day.
Martinez said they even take the balls from the ball pit, and wash them in a bathtub with disinfectant.
The idea for the business had been envisioned by Martinez for awhile, but opening it during the pandemic wasn't easy. She said she had second thoughts about going through with her plan, but her family encouraged her to keep going.
“I had already had a game plan coming, and the pandemic happened, I kind of got discouraged, but they were like, ‘hey, we got you, we’re going to help you, we’ll figure it out,’ and it worked,” Martinez said. “It was nerve-wracking, especially when you know that it’s a big investment, my whole savings went into this. This was me saying I’m going to take a shot and a leap of faith.”
Not only was the process difficult to start a business during the pandemic, it was especially tough on Martinez, who lost her best friend Laura due to COVID-19 in late April.
“For me, that was devastating, I had just got this building when that happened, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to do this without her," Martinez said. "My family stepped up and said, ‘we got you, you’re going to do this, you’re not going to let that defeat you, and she wouldn’t want you to be defeated by this.’”
Martinez was, in fact, not defeated by losing her best friend, and persevered to open the building in May using the loss of Laura as motivation to keep going.
“I know that she’s my angel, I know she’s looking down on me, I know that she’s the one who’s been here, guiding me, telling me, ‘you can do this, don’t break,’” she said. “I can do this, and I’m going to do this, and eventually it will get bigger, and that is the goal, and Tots N Socks is going to stay in Corpus, and I will make sure it stays in Corpus.”
Martinez splits time between Corpus Christi and DFW, coming down to the Coastal Bend every two weeks or so. She said her family has been a huge help to her, aside from helping her to start her business, but also in keeping it running.
Her husband and teenage son help run the business in DFW, and her extended family runs the business in Corpus Christi.
Tots N Socks Event & Play Center is located at 4223 Leopard St. in Corpus Christi, and is available for open play Tuesday to Thursday from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m., and Friday from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Tots N Socks is also available for parties during the weekend.