Some national toy stores may wonder why anyone would shop anywhere else for toys, but neighborhood toy stores, like Rhinoceros in Haddonfield, know why.
“Local toy stores add charm and character to neighborhoods across the country and provide children with a wide variety of unique and quality toy options typically unavailable at big box stores,” said Kathleen McHugh, President of the American Specialty Toy and Retailing Association.
While the national chains have to appeal to the mass market, neighborhood stores can provide more unique items- some overlooked by the chains- and specialize their selection. Local stores can also provide a more personalized experience and offer a variety of activities.
“We’re about games and puzzles and fun and family time,” said Rhinoceros Owner Bernadette Hennessy, better known as “Miss B” to families who visit toy store and gamery.
Rhinoceros is unique in that the store is split in half- one side toy store, the other side a gamery with tables for families to rent by the hour to play games. The back end of the store also has a lending library for its Game and Puzzle Club, which families can join for $30 a year.
Saturday is Neighborhood Toy Store Day, a celebration to honor the local stores as well as a launch to the holiday shopping season. According to ASTRA, for every $100 spent in a neighborhood toy store, $68 returns to the community, versus $43 returned by chain stores in the form of taxes, salaries and other contributions.
“On November 10, we hope that more families will discover the special touches and unique value often found only at local toy stores,” McHugh said. “Shopping locally is a win-win for families- they can find unique toys and receive top notch customer services while supporting the community in which they live.”
As Hennessy and her husband, Alan, talk about their store’s gamery section and lending library of games, it’s obvious the personal attention is there as they can’t help but mention specific customers as examples.
Rhinoceros in Haddonfield opened a little over a year ago, but the first Rhinoceros, run by Hennessy’s sister, Kate, in Jenkintown, Penn., is five years old this holiday season. The sisters had previously owned a bridal store and wanted to transition to something else. When the hobby store across the street decided to close its doors, the sisters knew what to do.
“We just always enjoyed games and hobbies,” she said, adding she was also once a teacher. “It just made perfect sense.”
Using “Rhinoceros” as the store name made perfect sense, too. It was the character an elementary school teacher allowed Kate to be in a Thanksgiving play, even though the animal traditionally is not associated with the holiday. Rhinoceros represents thinking outside the box and acceptance of being different.
Rhinoceros Gamery, Activity and Toy Store is at 107 Kings Highway East in Haddonfield.
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