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Kelsi, left, and Damian enjoy a snack at Wee Watch ’Em Thursday in the Rogue Valley Mall in Medford. - Julia Moore

Home Grown: Wee Watch 'Em comprises three generations of childcare professionals

Editor's note: This is one in a weekly series of profiles on locally owned and operated businesses in Southern Oregon.

What do you do and how long have you been doing it? (Judy Primasing speaking) We are a full- and part-time child-care center and preschool. We bought it 13 years ago. We now have three generations working there, including three granddaughters. Lori Mayfield opened it 1993.

How long have you lived in the Rogue Valley? We moved here from Eugene in 1975.

What inspired you to go into this line of work? We had two daughters — Jodi Cartwright and Karee Battenfield — who had done child care in their homes and they found it for sale. I bought it for them to have something for them to do. My husband had operated American Hearing Aid Systems in Medford for 25 years. Five years ago, we sold American Hearing Aid Systems. At the time, my daughter, Jodi, was operating the center, and I've been there the past five years.

What decision or action would you change if you could do it again? Six years ago, we started taking infants. Up to that point we were taking 21/2- to 12-year-olds. Now we take them 6 weeks to 12 years old. We could have done it sooner because there is a huge need in the valley for good infant care. The reason it is harder is that you are using more employees for fewer children. The state standard for infants is that you need one adult employee for every four infants. For 21/2-to 12-year-olds you need one adult for every 10 children. We had to divide the center and make a space for the infants because they have to be separated from the older children.

What's the toughest business decision you've made? Right now we have a waiting list for the infants and don't have one for the older children. The hardest part is making people realize we are a child-care center, not a drop-in for people to go shopping. When Lori started it, it was just a drop-in center. We both took drop-ins and did child care. To this day, people still want to drop kids off, and we can't do that. We made the change eight years ago when the state certifier said you can't have drop-ins, mainly because of the immunization records. You can't commingle day-care children with outside children. We're in a 2,500-square-foot space divided into a play area for older children, a classroom for preschool and an infant center. I don't think monetarily it would help us at all to start a second center for drop-ins.

Who are your competitors? There are a lot of centers, but very few who take infants. Blossom Hills is at the Nazarene Church and New Horizons is on Delta Waters Road and Sarah Corson Child Development & Learning Center downtown are among the big centers.

What are your goals? I would like to see a boatload of 21/2- to 12-year-olds, and a larger preschool class. Our preschool curriculum was done by a state schoolteacher, and we get high marks from the kindergarten teachers when the kids start school.

What training or education did you need? We have to have 1,500 hours working in a certified center to be head-teacher qualified, and all of our employees are head-teacher certified. We have to have infant CPR and first-aid certification. Every year we have to have 20 hours of continuing education and be recertified. The good thing about where we are is that we have mall security constantly while we are open.

What's your advice for budding entrepreneurs? Be patient. Your hiring abilities are important. The people you hire in any business, you have to get to know them. We've had lots of employees over the years. Some you can trust, some you can't. You need an instinct about people.

To suggest ideas for this column, about businesses that are at least five years old, contact reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email business@mailtribune.com.

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