ROCKY RIVER, Ohio — The holidays are just weeks away, and shoppers are scrambling to mark those on their list. Some shoppers may buy toys this year, and local toy store owners are asking for their support as they struggle to survive the pandemic.
Earlier this year, many local toy stores had to close for weeks due to the pandemic. Since opening, business has been scarce.
“He’s trying to find new clients. That’s the biggest challenge and always has been,” Sue Warfield said. “Nobody has it easy right now.”
Warfield is the acting president of the Specialty Toy Retail Association of America or ASTRA. She said ASTRA represents over 700 independent retail organizations. She said the owners are doing what they can to make ends meet. Many are using the pandemic as an opportunity to upgrade their website and offer services they didn’t have before the pandemic began.
“It’s their livelihood. It’s their job, it’s not like they have another job,” Warfield said. before, but they survived and are seeing new business that they didn’t have before.
In Rocky River, Jack Seelie is enjoying success after reopening Once Upon a Time Toys earlier this year. Seelie said some days are better than others, but they also have their share of slow days.
The store, located at the corner of Wright Ave. and Detroit Rd., is a community staple. Seelie has been doing business with convenience store customers since 1988.
Seelie said her clientele now spans three generations. Parents now bring their little ones who remember visits from their childhood.
“We have fabulous clients,” he said.
He believes big box stores and online shopping have their place, however, he said nothing beats the support of a local business and is confident his customers get it. He said they don’t want to see homeowners closing their doors, forced to close their front windows.
“I’m proud to carry toys that you can’t buy at the big box store,” Seelie said. “This is how cities are going to look. All of them have boarded up storefronts and no one wants to live in that world.
To stay afloat, Seelie said it will continue to deliver what people want – a memorable experience.
“It makes it better to get out. To see the toys in person, touch them,” he said.[The customers] appreciate the personalized service. We offer things you can’t get at the big box store.”