Pat-A-Cake: Child care for generations

LINO LAKES — Many adults who attended Pat-A-Cake Child Care years ago returned to see some familiar faces and learn how the business has changed over the years at a 25th anniversary celebration Oct. 3.

Owner Patti Beecher grew up in Lino Lakes and was inspired to go into the world of day care at a young age. “My brother (Ryan Radtke) is 13 years younger than me, and I took care of him when I was younger,” she explained. “I thought it was fun when I taught him how to tie his shoe, to write his name. It was cool to be able to see how he flourished like that.”

Beecher was initially contemplating the career of a teacher but realized four years of school was not for her. After Beecher’s sister begged her to watch her daughter, Beecher started an in-home day care, which she ran for 2 1/2 years before finding a home for Pat-A-Cake at 7761 Lake Drive.

“I wanted my kids to be with me and to be able to grow up here,” she explained. “I wanted to provide quality care with educational activities that was affordable to young families in the Quad community.” Two of Beecher’s children, Spencer and Dallas, now work with their mother.

Pat-A-Cake Child Care serves kids from six weeks to 12 years of age. Over the years, the number of children it is responsible for has grown. When the business began, it was licensed to care for 33 children. The following year, it grew to 48 children. Since 1998, the facility has been licensed for 66. Now, it is not uncommon for families to be placed on a waitlist. According to Beecher, the next opening for infants isn’t until January; for toddler and preschool classrooms, there are no openings until next summer.

Along with the growing number of children, the business has expanded to occupy more space within its colorful building. In addition to many renovations and updating of classrooms, Pat-A-Cake has also installed more playground space, which now wraps almost all the way around the building.

As the children have changed, the business has had to adapt. “We have technology here for the kids to play on. We have added that for the preschoolers so they are introduced to technology before they start school,” Beecher said.

Two reasons the business has made it 25 years and counting, Beecher said, is because the business is family oriented and affordable.

“Families are families here, they are not just a number,” she said. “I have the lowest rates in the area. I got into this to be with my kids, I didn’t get into this to be a millionaire. I live in a regular house like everybody else does, and I work for a living just like everybody else does.”

Kari Vaillancourt, a Wyoming resident, has been with Beecher since the beginning. Vaillancourt, who is now semi-retired, is a toddler teacher. When asked why the business has flourished for so many years, she joked, “Because we’re crazy.” She added that, “We have all worked together, we made the day care what it was.”

Karen Leavell, a Lino Lakes resident, started working with Beecher at the time she operated her in-home day care. Leavell, a preschool teacher, said the two things that have kept the business operating for more than two decades is the fact that Pat-A-Cake has great staff who love children.

One thing all three of the Pat-A-Cake lifers agree on is that it has been an absolute joy to watch children grow up.

“It is so fun to watch these kids grow up and see what they become,” Beecher said. “I was just talking to someone who was here 20 years ago, and now he is a mechanic and he served in the Navy for five years.”