Planet 4 Kidz prepares to close

Published 10:58 am Monday, August 22, 2016

A mainstay in Vicksburg child development is closing its doors at the end of the month.

Eric and Ashley Lawson, the couple who have operated Planet 4 Kidz child care center for the past 18 years, are retiring from the business Aug. 31.

“We have definitely serviced a lot of kids through the years and families that we have been truly thankful for their loyalty and very blessed to have their kids with us to watch them grow, educate them and provide good care for them,” Ashley said.

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Planet 4 Kidz opened in 1998, and the Lawsons became the owners in 2000. The center started on Pemberton Boulevard and eventually moved to its current location at 1837 Cherry St. Currently the center has about 55 children who enter its doors daily between the ages of 6 weeks to 12 years.

“At one point we were one of the largest child care facilities that stayed open extended hours. We were Monday through Friday 18 hours a day,” Ashley said.

At that time there were over 200 children attending the center and the numbers have fluctuated throughout the years.

About 12 years ago Patrick Brown started going to Planet 4 Kidz when he was 9. He enjoyed his experience and the people he encountered at the center.

“They always wanted the best atmosphere for the children. They wanted us to feel like it was our home away from home,” he said, adding he was so close to the Lawsons he even stayed with them sometimes on the weekends.

Ashley said the couple moved to Vicksburg from Memphis because of Planet 4 Kidz.

It will be hard to not see the children every day after all these years, but Ashley hopes to continue the relationships she has made over the years.

“Every morning, every little face is just grinning and smiling,” Ashely said. “(I will miss) the relationships that I’ve had with a lot of my parents, my children….My employees have been with me for a long time. Just having that daily interaction with them. It’s a lot of activity. It will be a big change having quiet.”

Chia Barajas said the Lawsons watched her grow up over the years and they became close.

“They made us feel like family,” she said, adding they were kind and caring. “I even became their Goddaughter…They treat all of us like we mean something.”

She still talks to the Lawsons from time to time and is sad to know Planet 4 Kidz won’t be around anymore.

“I don’t know how its going to be now without a Planet 4 Kidz,” Barajas said. “They will truly be missed.”

The Lawsons decided now was the time to retire for a number of reasons including a change in state funding.

“We have serviced so many families since 1998 that it has been really a bittersweet moment of retiring from this industry and giving up the relationships we have had with parents, their children and even our employees,” Ashley said.

The center’s location doubles with The Tree House Banquet Hall, which is also owned by the Lawsons. The couple plans to continue to grow the rental hall and are considering starting another business.

“When childcare closes down and we liquidate the assets, then we will take that space and we will look into either expanding the banquet hall or opening up another business,” Ashley said.

The couple is focused on the childcare center now and will make future plans once the center is closed.