The Joys of the Mom-and-Pop Toy Store
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Setting Trends, Not Following Them
This is the remaining piece of the puzzle that is the continued success of mom-and-pop toy stores: Where bigger stores, online and off, glory in offering every possible option, the local toyshop owner is a cool hunter, carefully curating the shop’s inventory to match neighborhood sensibilities. Walk into a store in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, and you’ll see a totally different selection of toys and games from a store on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, Babylon, or Nyack. You won’t get all the options available in a big box store, but you also won’t get the sensory overload.
“I’m not really a parent who’s 100-percent up on all the latest toys,” confesses Solly. She shops her area stores in downtown Brooklyn and Park Slope, because they “know our market. They get the neighborhood and know what the kids would be interested in.” Salmon, who named TP Toys after her children, ages 4 and 6, credits her kids with helping her pick winning toys and games: “Every time people come in and say, ‘You have beautiful selection,’ I say, ‘Thank my kids!’”
Simon is always hunting for the unique, wonderful, and unexpected to stock at Toy Space at places such as Renaissance fairs and folk festivals. Inspiration can come from unexpected sources. A friend visiting from the west coast casually mentioned Shoulder Buddies. Simon hadn’t heard of the small figurines, which perch on a person’s shoulders aided by magnets, but she immediately thought they sounded amazing. She ordered a supply, and had every staffer wear one. Shoulder Buddies were a hit, sweeping through nearby schools. “Every kid had to have a Shoulder Buddy,” she said. “It was a total made-up trend! And that’s what a mom-and-pop shop can do.”
So long as Toy Space is still around, Simon will continue to seek out the next great toy. And so will the proverbial mom-and-pop toy store owners around the region.
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Main photo: The Toy Box in Pearl River
Photo by Jim Russo