We all hope you’ll get out tomorrow (yes, tomorrow! Saturday Nov 9.) to support Neighborhood Toy Store Day, and find something on your holiday list right from your local businesses. Especially considering how much money that helps put right back into your own community. Plus we always love the personal help from shopkeepers who get to know our kids as they grow. If there was ever a shopping day of the year that grabbed our hearts it’s this one.
On behalf of our wonderful sponsor ASTRA, the association for all the American specialty toy retailers, as in past years, we’ve asked some of our contributors and staff around the country to share their own favorite toy stores in their own communities.
Maybe your own shop is here. Maybe you can find a new one at YourNeighborhoodToyStore.org. Or feel free to give a shout-out to a local fave in comments! We always love learning about more indie shops to support.
Julie, Breckenridge CO: Peak a Boo Toys (at top)
The awesome slopes of Breckenridge aren’t the only reasons to visit this ski town. No matter what the season, we never miss Peak A Boo Toys. We love this independent toy store that encourages kids to stay and play, while parents explore the shelves, including lots of CMP favorites like Corolle, Green Toys, Plan Toys, and ThinkFun. Fair warning: they don’t yet have an online store, and the website is overrun with Comic Sans, but the store itself is wonderful. Plus it’s always warm and cozy in there.
Kristen, Doylestown PA: Busy Bee Toys
Busy Bee Toys is our go-to local spot for the coolest toys around. In fact, it’s like walking around the Cool Mom Picks site in real life. They’ve got such an amazing selection of unique toys and crafts for kids of every age, plus a wonderful staff that lets you (and your kids) roam and play, even if they only thing we leave with is a pack of rainbow loom bands.
Liz, Brooklyn NY: Half Pint Citizens (Dumbo)
While I have three amazing neighborhood toy stores in walking distance, there’s something I love about the jewelbox-sized Half Pint situated right in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s a little higher end store than most, but it’s a fabulous local resource for extra special baby and kids gifts, plus books and media, and even swanky outfits from favorites like Appaman and See Kai Run. I especially love that they feature lots of local brands too, a great eco-friendly selection, and boutique brands like MD Moms and 3 Sprouts before I had seen them anywhere else. It’s a must-visit when you’re slumming in Brooklyn Bridge Park, checking out Jane’s Carousel, or grabbing a pizza at Grimaldi’s. Plus? Your kid will generally leave with a balloon. [photo: shopikon]
Shari, Hoboken NJ: Big Fun Toys
There is nothing like a neighborhood toy store and Big Fun lives up to its name. The staff is helpful, patient, and yes, fun. There is a “play corner” with a big train and toys and books. You can even play with the new toys and they don’t care if you don’t put them back in the right spot (thank goodness). The selection is awesome, they do free gift-wrapping (can we hear a ‘holla’ for last-minute presents?), and the whole experience is consistently so pleasant and low-key, we often just hang out like it’s an indoor play space. [photo: Voravut R.]
Kate, Nashville TN: Phillips Toy Mart
I grew up going to Phillips Toy Mart as a kid, and it’s still just as magical today for my children (and me!) today. I’m pretty limited when it comes to buying toys, to be honest. I’m one of those “get outside and be active” moms, but I have a real soft spot for Phillips. If you’re in Nashville, you must swing by to see the big Thomas train display they have set up inside, complete with a control tower your kids can climb up in to direct the model trains. And if you’re there in the springtime, come by to pet the dozen or so bunnies they bring in around Easter. As a mom, I love Phillips’ focus on toys that foster creative play. It’s really kind of a Nashville institution. [photo: Marti W ]
Christina, Easton and Canton MA: The Village Toy Shop
Our neighborhood toy store, The Village Toy Shop, is always the first to carry the coolest toys, like Rainbow Loom and Kickboard scooters. The staff is always super helpful and friendly to kids, they host loads of fun activities, and they even offer free gift wrap! Given how many presents have “Village Toy” wrapping paper at any local birthday party, this is definitely a popular spot for us busy parents.
Stacie, Brooklyn NY: Hank & JoJo (Fort Greene)
The Hank & JoJo backstory is just as fun as the store’s selection of goods. The company started when founder, Andriana, addressed her frustration with constantly slipping and sagging baby socks by launching her own line of retro baby tube socks made out of bamboo with AZO-free dyes–beloved by the CMP staff, in fact. Socks led to other apparel and clothing led to a store that, lucky for me, is smack dab in my neighborhood. H&J products are sold all over the web, but the store boasts a selection of goods from all different brands carefully curated by Andriana’s discerning eye. There’s also a cheerful back space where Andriana hosts classes, groups and seminars in partnership with the best kids classes and educators in town.
Delilah, Atlanta GA: Richard’s Variety Store
A toy store for kids is great, but what really wins my heart is when there’s something for the whole family. Hey, I like toys, too! That’s where Richard’s Variety Store comes in. As one of the last standing five-and-dimes in Atlanta, Richard’s is pretty much an Archie McPhee catalog that you can walk through–and ride the antique 25 cent horse. Toys, masks, gifts, knick-knacks, accessories, kitchenware, games, puzzles, costumes, greeting cards, and all sorts of unusual, geeky fun await. [photo: Renee Hannans Henry of the AJC]
Kari, Orinda CA: Sweet Dreams Candy and Toys
I pride myself in being pretty great at picking out the “perfect” gift all by myself, but the folks at Sweet Dreams are much better. Their colorful shelves are stacked to the brim with plenty of options for any-aged child. The staff has a knack for magically producing a fantastic gift for your recipient. Add in a generous selection of penny candy and some handbags for Mama, and you’ve got the elements of a perfect local toy store. [photo: PAUL CHINN/The Chronicle]
Visit YourNeighborhoodToyStore.org to find a shop in your area, and thanks to our sponsor ASTRA for all the great work you do. We’re always happy to support the moms and pops in our own neighborhoods.
Also, check out our list of favorite specialty toys of the year for kids, to jar some ideas for holiday shopping.