The Toy Chest: Indiana’s Oldest Toy Store Reminds People of All Ages to Never Stop Playing

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NASHVILLE, Ind. – Since 1970, The Toy Chest has been a Brown County staple. It first opened on Main Street to showcase founder Ed Hollis’ hand-carved circus until a fire destroyed the building ten years later.

Then, in 1988, the Toy Chest reopened in the same location where you’ll still find this iconic toy store today: nestled inside the Artist Colony Shops on Van Buren Street in the heart of downtown Nashville.

Since becoming the owner of The Toy Chest in 2014, Hilary Key has continued the legacy of making Indiana’s oldest toy store the kind of place where all generations can play like kids again.

We are heading to downtown Nashville on this trip In your neighborhood.

Photo credit: Toy box Facebook page

“We strongly believe that there is no age at which you should never outgrow gambling,” Key said. “Which means we make it a point to have games and wacky things not just for teens but for adults.”

Now in their 50’sand year, The Toy Chest is no ordinary toy store.

It’s the kind of place that can bring generations together in a shared experience of play and fun through toys.

We see kids who come in and tell their parents they only want video games come away thrilled with a board game,” Key said. “We see a lot of great relationships between grandkids and grandparents when grandparents see a toy they know and loved and sometimes it’s a child’s first exposure to a kaleidoscope. … It can be really fun to see that.”

When it comes to selecting their inventory, they focus on quality and game type.

Think more of “Santa’s Toy Store” than a big box store.

Photo credit: Toy box Facebook page

“We strive for top quality…you don’t know everything— we have pickle fingers for Pete’s sake — things that are just goofy and inexpensive,” Key explained. “But there are a lot of toys that we want them to have the potential to be heirloom toys that could be passed on to future generations and aren’t going to fall apart a week after you get them.”

There’s something for everyone, from puzzles and games to sensory toys, stuffed animals, figurines and puppets, outdoor toys, building kits and craft kits and more .

“These are soapstone carving kits,” she explains, presenting the object. “You carve it and sand it and wax it… And it’s becoming very popular for parents to get it for the kid to do it [something out of it] for a grandparent for Christmas or as a gift for someone else…they’re also a great way to show that crafting isn’t just for girls.

Photo credit: Toybox website

The toy box also offers a range of STEM-based toys, including science and engineering kits and their new line called Celestial Buddies.

“Space has been very trendy for the past few years, but it’s never been so cute,” she said. “They come with funny information in their label [and] they go perfectly as a gift with a space puzzle or a space book.

Photo credit: Toy box Facebook page

You’ll also find mainstream favorites like the TonieBox, soft speakers that read a story to your child when a Tonie figure is placed on it.

“It also comes with a creative Tonie, so now my kids have recorded three stories of me reading to them, so they like to listen to them when I’m at work,” Key explained.

But one of Key’s favorite things might surprise you.

“I always feel a little weird when I tell people that my favorite thing in the whole toy store is a set of knives. Until I explain myself, I just get a funny look. says- she laughs. “They can cut a raw carrot, but they can’t cut a finger, so if you really want your kids to get involved in the kitchen and you don’t want to be scared to death… That’s a spectacular article.”

Photo credit: Toy box Facebook page

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many parents have found themselves not only working from home, but also homeschooling their children. And they viewed The Toy Chest and their line of educational toys as extremely valuable tools.

“We’re doing a lot more than ever to really help people who are homeschooling,” Key said. “So [parents are] here and they say, ‘It’s a science lesson!’ while watching one of the chemistry sets or something.

COVID-19 has impacted not only the setup inside the store (with the removal of play station tables and hands-on demo areas), but also inventory.

“I think our crafting section has tripled in size,” Key explained. “It’s crafts, games, puzzles and very educational…we think all games are educational, but the things you look at and it’s obviously educational, that’s what a lot of people want right now.”

You don’t even have to come inside to find the perfect gift. Some of the other changes they have made during this ‘new normal’ include an appointment window, daily Facebook live videos, free delivery within 25 miles [and $5 flat rate shipping within the United States] and tailor-made packages for all budgets and interests.

Photo credit: Toy box Facebook page

“So you might say, ‘I want a $50 arts and crafts package.’ I have 3 children. They are 5, 8 and 12 years old. We love mermaids, we hate dinosaurs,” she noted. “You give us as much or as little information as you want and we’ll build this package to help you with what we’ve called ‘staying sane at home’.

For Key, one of the greatest things about being a local business is the personal relationships it can build and its ability to work magic when it comes to meeting the needs of its customers and community. . During this difficult year, The Toy Chest was able to meet these needs through things like personal purchases and the creation of personalized packages, the establishment of a school assistance program and animation a “Give Away A Box” program to help bring joy to other children.

“When a family contacts us on someone’s behalf and says, ‘She’s my friend, she lost her job. She has 3 kids at home and doesn’t want them watching TV all day, but they can’t afford that level of science kit,” Key explained. “Then we could say, ‘Well, person A just spent $200 on a Give Away A box and now we can take that $200 and give it to person B’s four kids and all the things that they need at home.

Four things you need to know about the toy box:

  • The Toy Box was first opened in 1970 by founder Ed Hollis on Main Street in downtown Nashville, Indiana. In 1988 it moved to its current location in The Artist Colony Shops at 125 S. Van Buren Street. Hilary Key has owned the store since 2014 and has continued the legacy of making Indiana’s oldest toy store a must visit for anyone who loves to play. We strongly believe that there is no age at which you should never outgrow gambling,” she said.
  • This is not your average toy store. “The big thing here is that our main focus is play more than toys…I really look at the play value of the toy,” Key said. “So we make all of our decisions based on what play the child will get out of the toy and that drives us to stock a different style of toy than what you might find in [a big box store].”
  • Just in time for holiday shopping, The Toy Chest has released its Holiday Catalog (also available online on its website). They also offer custom vacation packages and storage packages. They also recently launched their “SUPER Sticker Club,” a subscription club that gives your child 12 sticker sheets for $15 a month.
  • If you’re looking to spread a little kindness, they also offer a “Give Away A Box” option, where you can donate a box of toys to a family who may be going through a tough time and need some help. a bit of holiday magic.

Key and his staff have clearly been working to plant a seed of positivity despite the difficult year they have also faced as a local business. In turn, they felt an immense amount of love from their community.

“I’ve never seen small business support like this,” Key said in tears. “We explained a month how late we were to our goal of being down 30% and the response we got within days meant that we ended that month down Only 11% while we were sitting at 50%.

Photo credit: Toy box Facebook page

“The support and the kindness…I’ve had clients send me flowers,” she added. “Clients who said, ‘I know it’s been a tough year’ and me, ‘You’re so nice… Thank you!”

For more information on The Toy Chest, check out their website by clicking here. To see more photos and reviews from local Yelpers, check out their Yelp profile. You can also connect with them on social media via Facebook and Instagram.

Looking for more places to shop until you drop in Nashville? Check out some of these other beloved Brown County favorites: