The challenges of running a specialty toy store

I’m not going to lie – early 2018 was a time that I was torn with deciding whether to close Fairhaven Toy Garden or sign another two year lease.  This was extremely difficult for me, even considering that I had worked for less than minimum wage for the past two years and closing should have been the obvious choice.  We had already downsized our game by moving to a location where we could have both our store and storage/office all in one.  We thought we did a good job of letting the public know we had moved, but as it turns out, we did not.  Two years later, we are still getting people coming in saying, I thought you had closed!  Or, are you the same toy store that was up on the corner of 11th and Mill? And the construction in our immediate neighborhood – will we survive the loss of parking until it is completed?  And how can we compete with the internet?  What do we do with the people that use our store to find what they would like to buy, and then go home and buy it online – or worse yet, buy it online while they are in the store!  All of these factors consumed my thoughts for weeks.  It was easier to compete with the big box stores – we just kept tabs on what they were selling and chose other things to sell.  But on the internet, you can get just about anything!  Or can you…..  What about our personal customer service, product knowledge, unique selection and free gift wrapping?  Is it enough to keep people shopping in a brick and mortar toy store?  Or are we a thing of the past?  Maybe, but I have never been a quitter!  Even though other toy stores across the country are closing, I knew we still had potential and I had to give it just one more chance.

In mid-June, my daughter Erin, her fiancée John (both key employees) and I attended the ASTRA Marketplace and Academy in New Orleans, LA.  At the Marketplace we found new and unique products to enhance our store’s selection.  At the Academy we attended lectures and workshops to inspire us to make our toy store a must do experience in Fairhaven.  Since we returned, the three of us have spent time sharing our ideas, prioritizing them, and coming up with a game plan for what we will do to turn the store back into a thriving business.  We may not be able to implement our ideas overnight, but over the next few months we hope to bring you better merchandising, better communication, more events and a playful experience for all ages!  We also hope to spread more awareness that we still exist and that if a toy store in Fairhaven is meant to be, then it will require a solid customer base to support it.  And incidentally, I did sign a two year lease through February of 2020.


~ Tina

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