Nicole DeCosta of Somerset opened a play space in Seekonk back in March of 2018. “Simply Play,” formerly known as “Play Date,” welcomed children to engage in imaginative play and host birthday parties until the COVID-19 outbreak in March of 2020.

“I have five kids and there was absolutely no place to bring them to play that I could actually enjoy as well,” said DeCosta. “Having multiples, it’s hard to be anywhere when they all run in different directions. So, I needed a place where I can actually sit, see my kids at all times, and enjoy catching up with a friend while drinking a nice hot coffee in a place as if it was designed by Joanna Gaines herself!”

Simply Play via Facebook

Kids were able to learn and socialize in an environment that was aesthetically pleasing to adults as well. The atmosphere and décor are perfect for any parent looking to create fun memories with their kiddos while making new friends themselves.

“It was the happening spot for preschoolers and their caregivers before the pandemic,” said DeCosta. “For moms, dads, grandparents, or nannies, there was no place else like it in the area. I was the first, the original, that not only thought of the children that would be coming in to play but the adults that would be coming in as well.”

Parents and kids rejoiced in a space that was created just for them.

“If I had a penny for every time someone told me I was a genius, I would be a millionaire,” DeCosta said. “It takes a village’ has always been a line that I tell people and for us, that village was Play Date. People loved it and I loved meeting new people. It satisfied my extrovert personality and was everything I imagined and more.”

Unfortunately, the pandemic hit pause on play and the little ones were forced to entertain themselves at home along with the rest of the world.

“This last year was terrible for Play Date. Not just because I had to close my doors and I had zero money coming in, but because I had to close my doors to the families,” DeCosta said. “The stay-at-home mom that lives and breathes for any adult conversation, the mom that has been up all hours of the night with a colicky crying baby and needs someone else anyone else to help them through it emotionally and even holding the baby for an hour!”

According to DeCosta, Play Date was so much more than just playtime for the kids.

“It was a saving grace for a lot of moms. Let’s be honest where do moms meet other moms that are in the same season as them? This was the perfect spot! When the pandemic happened, we were unable to provide the much-needed social interaction for all of those kids, along with the moms and even some dads. It was truly sad to not be able to be there physically for my customers.”

This difficult year has forced DeCosta to make an equally difficult decision.

“It was hard to be able to pay rent for a space that was collecting cobwebs,” DeCosta said. “The last thing I wanted to do was close my doors, but being closed for a year and having to pay rent was tough. Tough for me, and tough for every small business. There is talk about trying to sell Play Date and passing the baton for someone to keep what I have created going! That would be a happy ending to an incredibly sad story.”

Juliana Carvalho hosted her daughter’s first birthday at Simply Play on Sunday, April 11. A loyal customer who appreciated the quality of the space, Carvalho was disappointed to hear that the owner has been forced to make this difficult decision.

Simply Play via Facebook

“I was so saddened to hear the news of Simply Play closing as a result of the pandemic,” Carvalho said. “I just had my daughter’s first birthday party there and it was nothing short of perfect. The place is impeccably clean and such a fun place for the kids to unplug and use their imagination. You can tell how much love Nicole has put into her space and it truly breaks my heart that they are facing such a hard decision to close its doors. Wishing her the best of luck and hoping she can reopen in the future.”

LOOK: Here are the 50 best beach towns in America

Every beach town has its share of pluses and minuses, which got us thinking about what makes a beach town the best one to live in. To find out, Stacker consulted data from WalletHub, released June 17, 2020, that compares U.S. beach towns. Ratings are based on six categories: affordability, weather, safety, economy, education and health, and quality of life. The cities ranged in population from 10,000 to 150,000, but they had to have at least one local beach listed on TripAdvisor. Read the full methodology here. From those rankings, we selected the top 50. Readers who live in California and Florida will be unsurprised to learn that many of towns featured here are in one of those two states.

Keep reading to see if your favorite beach town made the cut.