For Lindsay Williamson, after buying The Animal Kingdom from State College in 2012 and Growing Tree Toys in 2019, she thought of an “idea” to merge the two stores – which she and her team have been thinking about for “quite a long time”.
On January 12, Williamson, the owner of both stores, announced that the merger will take place in June when the 10-year lease for The Animal Kingdom is up.
Even though Williamson has owned the stores for several years, the businesses have been at State College longer, she said.
“Growing Tree actually goes back further — I think they originally opened in the ’70s,” Williamson said. “I am the third owner of Growing Tree, although it changed its name at some point.”
Williamson said “financially,” the stores had “a great year last year,” largely making the decision to merge because of logistics.
“It was harder with everything being two — having two social media outlets and having two teams,” Williamson said. “Having to think twice about everything was difficult, to say the least.”
So, Williamson said she “can’t wait for it to be one, very soon,” in a bid to “simplify everything.”
Williamson said she had “signed two five-year leases in a row,” but now that she has the growing tree, and she and her team “just looked at the spaces and thought we could do it. , we could put them together, and I could have a team and a social network.
With the merger of the two stores, all products will be “delivered to one location,” Williamson said.
“Honestly, it’s just pure logistics just to keep it simple and have a bigger space,” Williamson said. “More parking is available and the library is just across the street which is more family oriented so it seemed obvious.”
Williamson joked and said she was very excited to “not go up and down [South Allen Street] more.”
While the store’s location will remain at 202 S. Allen Street, the current location of Growing Tree, Animal Kingdom will “still be heavily represented due to the emotional side.”
“I’ve had it for 10 years – my daughter grew up here, and I would be so sad to see it go,” Williamson said.
Williamson explained that “Growing Tree Toys Featuring the Animal Kingdom” is the potential wording his team is considering for the merger.
“I’ve been working on a business card and logos, and they go together like they’re meant to – so our little bear friend from Animal Kingdom will be under the growing tree, and it’s like if it was always meant to be like this,” Williamson said.
Right now, Williamson said his team is “sort of running The Animal Kingdom as a selling point, we’re slowly starting to bring in everything that we’re going to keep and move on to Growing Tree, and eventually, [Animal Kingdom] will be all that’s left is for sale.
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“We plan to keep Animal Kingdom open for retail until graduation weekend, and then the rest of this May will be sort of our last move, cleanup, and removal of all of our devices from here,” Williamson said.
Longtime employee Sarah Gingrich said she was “excited” about the merger, “especially because it’s going to give us the opportunity to have the best of the best in a toy store.”
Gingrich (junior human development and family studies) said she started work in the fall of 2019 — “just when Growing Tree opened.”
“I love working at the toy store and I love working with Lindsay,” Gingrich said. “I’m thrilled that Lindsay can take this step in her career and focus on what we bring to the community is the best.”
Currently, the Jellycat brand is the only part of The Animal Kingdom that has been “sent to the streets”, according to Gingrich.
“We built more shelves to make room for the stuffed animals,” Gingrich said. “But other than that it’s going to be a slow move, I’m not really sure what Lindsay has planned since I’m only here for the semester.”
Gingrich said to “come visit and buy local” since the stores “have a great selection of things.”
“Especially if you’re a student, we have so many really cute games and stuffed animals,” Gingrich said.
Growing Tree Toys and The Animal Kingdom director Jennifer Heller also spoke on behalf of the merger.
“It will be a wonderful move on our part so that we can bring together the best of the best here in one store to better serve everyone who needs to shop with us,” Heller said.
Heller said she was “really excited” because the products coming to the toy store fit “so well together.”
Currently, the team is “moving things down the street” and “bringing the things they plan to keep moving into Growing Tree”, while also bringing the items for sale to The Animal Kingdom location. , Heller said.
After making a live video on social media pages about the merger, Heller said the response was “nothing but praise” – leading her to believe customers were “100%” backing. decision.
“We’re super excited, we can’t wait to have it as one place and so people really have a one-stop-shop for all their State College gifts and educational means.”
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