Toys R Us may be bankrupt, but many mom & pop toy shops are thriving

DENVER – When you step inside a boutique toy shop, it’s like a new world ripe for your child to explore.

Often there are displays of toys to test out like puzzles, easels and blocks. Board games, dolls and crafts line the shelves floor to ceiling. There may be a sand table or a playhouse.

“Children need to hold things in their hands,” Sallie Kashiwa, owner of Denver-based Timbuk Toys told FOX31.

Kashiwa started her first store in 1993 in Denver’s Park Hill neighborhood.

“I thought that it would be interesting to have a store where people could come together and meet each other and children could find wonderful things that were fun but also educational,” she said.

Twenty five years later, Timbuk Toys has expanded to four locations across the metro area.

“They’re very generous. They let [my granddaughter] touch things and play with things and we can figure out what it is she really wants,” grandmother Mary Lipson told us during a shopping trip with her granddaughter.

It’s that kind of generosity and atmosphere that Lipson says has kept her out of big box toy stores like Toys R Us.

“[At Timbuk Toys] I don’t feel like I’m a number. You’re not a number,” she said.

Based on their recent bankruptcy filing, many other families seem to be ditching Toys R Us in favor of boutique toy stores too.

“My first thought was oh, that’s so sad,” Kishawa said. “Toys R Us has been a part of the American landscape for a really long time.”

She believes the big box stores simply can’t compete with the level of customer service offered in many of the boutiques.

For example, some mom and pop shops are known for readily opening up packages to show kids how toys work before they buy them. That happened when FOX31 visited Timbuk Toys, when the owner opened up a Mozi right in the middle of the store.

“It’s imperative because otherwise you have no idea what you’re buying,” Lipson said.

Timbuk Toys also offers free gift wrapping services in stores. Toys R Us provides wrapping paper, tape and scissors but customers must wrap the items themselves.

“I spend over 50 thousand dollars a year just on gift wrap and we give it away for free,” Kashiwa said.

As Toys R Us recovers from its financial meltdown, some are speculating the stores will begin to model themselves after the boutique stores that have been so successful.

“Imitation is the greatest form of flattery so if stores like mine can influence Toys R Us to be better and serve the American public better than I actually think it’s a good thing,” Kashiwa said.