Jacksonville Toy Store Owners Remain Optimistic As Toys R Us Prepares To Shut Down

Mar 15, 2018

The iconic Toys R Us chain is going out of business and has already begun liquidating some stores. All physical locations will be closing down after 70 years of business. 

Small business owners of toy stores in Jacksonville that WJCT News spoke with aren’t worried though. The local business owners aren’t seeing the news as a red flag for the toy industry, but rather an opportunity for family owned stores to expand.

“Smaller toy stores are cropping up everywhere, I think it’s a great idea,” Lisa Leuthold said. “People want to go to a neighborhood toy store rather than a giant mall to pick out their birthday gifts, their baby gifts, their clothes or whatever their looking for.”

Leuthold is the owner of Heyday!, a specialty toy store located in the San Marco Square. She remembers thinking that San Marco needed a toy store of its own, so she decided to open one.

Leuthold said that retail giants such as Toys R Us - and even Amazon - haven’t held the store back from sales, but instead helped make her business stronger.

“People just want to go to community shops and retail businesses in their neighborhoods as opposed to malls. It’s a lot more convenient and a lot more personal,” she said.

She attributes the shop’s success to being a community shop where locals can get personal help.

Another locally owned store is Brick Buddies on Atlantic Blvd. in the Regency area.

“It was writing on the wall that Toys R Us was going to close,” Brick Buddies owner Dwight Cenac said.

He attributes the success of his store to low prices and the experience children are able to have in store by playing with the toys.

“I think stores that worry are stores that don’t adopt,” Cenac said. “I don’t think brick and mortar stores are going away any time soon... but if a brick and mortar store wants to survive they’re gonna need to embrace the digital world, cause that’s where we all live.”

Cenac sells his products online through Amazon, which he said helps pays his rent and is a main reason that his physical store is able to stay open. He said believes toy stores are going to have to adapt to the digital world if they are going to be able to stand the test of time.

Meanwhile, back in San Marco, Leuthold summed it up by saying, “It’s nice to have a neighborhood store.”

The Jacksonville area is home to two Toys R  Us stores, at the St. Johns Town Center and Orange Park. St. Augustine has a Toys R Us outlet store

Gabrielle Garay can be reached at newsteam@wjct.org, 904-358-6317, or on Twitter at @GabbyAGaray