Steven Goldfarb doesn’t want to grow up. But he’s no Toys R Us kid.
He says, toys have helped him to stay youthful — and in business. Goldfarb is the owner of M.J. Beanz in Plainview. The mom-and-pop shop opened in 2004, specializing in children’s and tweens’ toys of the trendy and educational variety, as well as the traditional activity and coloring books, dolls, stuffed animals, puzzles, and arts and crafts kits.
With Toys R Us closing all of its stores by the end of April, as indicated in the company’s March liquidation filings in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, independent merchants like Goldfarb and Stanley Greenman, of Funky Monkey Toys & Books in Greenvale, stand to gain customers of the 70-year-old retailer.
These local shops are neither celebrating nor lamenting the demise of Toys R Us. They’re simply sticking to their respective niches and to the basics.
TOY SHOPS — WITH SPECIALTIES
The millions of toys the big-box retailer had for children to play with — from, as the jingle goes, bikes to trains to video games — can’t be found at M.J. Beanz. Goldfarb says he doesn’t stock “techy toys” because children get enough television and technology elsewhere.
Goldfarb, 63, of Jericho, has been in toy retail for more than two decades. Before opening M.J. Beanz, he owned HomBoms, a neighborhood toy store on First Avenue in New York City. About 10 years ago, he sold that store to work closer to home. Much of his business came from word of mouth — and still does.
The same can be said for Funky Monkey Toys & Books, which has a wide selection of reads for children of all ages. Carolina Boucos says she has been going to Funky Monkey Toys & Books for as long as it has been open.
“I am in that store once a week for my grandchildren or gifts,” says Boucos, of Sea Cliff. “The service was always great and the staff very helpful.”
The Greenvale go-to for trendy and novelty toy seekers and learners alike opened 13 years ago with Greenman, an Upper Brookville resident and a toy dealer for more than four decades, at its helm.
Lakeshore Learning, a developer and retailer of children’s educational products, is not a toy store but carries hands-on learning materials ideal for children from infancy through age 11. Its target audience is teachers and parents.
All of the company’s product developers are former educators who visit with teachers across the country to research what is needed to help kids learn, says Victoria Montoya, its director of public relations. The family-owned company was started in 1954 and has 60 locations nationwide, including one in New Hyde Park.
Like M.J. Beanz and Funky Monkey Toys & Books, which count personal shopping and complimentary gift wrapping services among its selling points, Lakeshore Learning allows customers to open any product, to get a closer look before making a purchase. This concept of playing before purchasing or try before you buy has proved crucial to the survival of these local outlets — owners say it allows them to go up against retail giants like Target and Walmart.
Lakeshore Learning hosts free events such as crafts for kids every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and teacher workshops six times a year to stay connected to the community.
The success of these local toy retailers hinges largely on their ability to zero in on customers’ needs. As the owner of a small business, Goldfarb says he has also benefited from the flexibility to hop on trends quicker than larger merchandisers. Most recently: Squishies (brightly colored foam toys that come in a variety of shapes and sizes).
As Toys R Us closes for good, independent toy shops say the “gee whiz” it promised won’t go with it. They intend to continue to make toy shopping an enjoyable experience as opposed to an errand.
A SAMPLING OF SPECIALTY TOY RETAILERS
Funky Monkey Toys & Books
360 Wheatley Plaza, Greenvale
GOOD FOR Quirky toys and books for kids.
2079 Hillside Ave., New Hyde Park
GOOD FOR Educational toys — building sets, science kits, math/reading games — plus art supplies.
345 S. Oyster Bay Rd., Plainview
GOOD FOR Toys, party favors and educational products.
For more Long Island toy shops, visit newsday.com/family