“It’s not just about the toys,” says Debbie Scholl of FUNdamentally Toys in Houston, Texas. “It's also a place to have an entertaining evening for the family by having jugglers and magicians -- a great way to have kids learn how to pay attention. Gives us a chance to give something back while you can have an outing with your child.”
FUNdamentally Toys takes pride in always having a new activity or event for families to enjoy. “We have a marketing calendar we’re always adding things to," said Debbie. "Always a new event and everyone constantly thinks of new things to add!”
Debbie was quick to add that it's not just about arts and crafts, though they have those too!
They aim to create different engaging activities for kids that are outside-of-the-box. You might see a marionette show at their store, play Wheel of Fortune, or meet an exotic animal guest.
"It's all about creating a learning experience,” said Debbie.
And those learning experiences collect over time to tell a community history -- and often, a family history. Thinker Things Toy Store in Solano Beach, California has been in business for 40 years. "My mother worked the shop, and now that she’s retired I own it," said owner John Naisbitt.
"We used to have this space--this courtyard and she’d host the best events there. Once we had a trunk show with these dolls, similar to the American Girl dolls, and the neighborhood girls would dress up to look like the girls and match the outfits --we’d even have a red carpet!” John reminisces.
The space may have changed but the feelings of community stayed the same. “For our 40th anniversary, we had a local band play from the area. Everyone loved it -- it was great!”
But it's not always about the grand gestures. Sometimes it's about the little things. And history.
"We’re first and foremost a service store, gift wrapping, same day delivery all over New York City,” said Ezra Ishayik of Mary Arnold Toys, which has been in business for 84 years.
Mary Arnold Toys treats their customers like part of the family, invites kids to build with Legos, and invites an occasional face painter to come in as part of their ongoing events. They even offer FREE toy assembly. Their favorite part of the business? The phone calls.
"We get calls, since our store is so old from all over, from older customers who used to come see us asking if we’re still there and if they can get something from their grandkids.” Often times, calls come in from all over the country.
What makes YOUR neighborhood toy store special?