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VOL. 118 | NO. 227 | Wednesday, December 15, 2004

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Toy Store Goes the Traditional Route

Toy Store Owner Keeps With Tradition


The Daily News

Pat Monz knows about perfect timing. Out for a drive near her New Jersey home, she noticed a retail center going up. But Monz knew she had hit upon more than a new place to shop she was witnessing her future being built right in front of her eyes.

The former corporate employee had just experienced the effects of downsizing and was looking for a new opportunity. So she hopped out of her car to take a look around.

I went in and talked to them and they said they needed a book store and a toy store, and I said, Oh, toys. That sounds like fun, Monz recalled. With all the effort I had been putting into my job, I would rather be putting it into my own business.

Nearly 20 years later, Monz finds herself not in New Jersey, but in Tennessee, where she is owner of The Village Toymaker. The shop has locations in Germantown and East Memphis.

Getting started. Monz opened her first store in 1985 in that New Jersey shopping center. When her husband was relocated to Memphis, she brought her business along, opening The Village Toymaker in Germantown at 7850 Poplar Ave. in 1987. She followed that move in 1994 with a second store at 4615 Poplar Ave. near Perkins Road in East Memphis.

Before jumping head first into the toy business, Monz did her due diligence.

I went into New York, went into the (International) Toy Center and talked to some people there to get information about it and did some research, she said. I contacted some people, and those people put me in touch with other people, and before you knew it, I had a store.

Her own direction. And it isnt a run-of-the-mill toy store. Monz believes in offering quality toys with a staff that knows its products.

We like to give a lot of personal service, and it involves knowing everything in the store, she said.

When Monz first looked into opening a toy store and began to check out vendors, she decided to go in a different direction than many of the larger retailers.

I stuck with a lot of more specialty vendors who sell to small specialty stores and stayed away from the big Mattels and Fisher Price, she said. We get a really good quality of toy from smaller manufacturers. Weve changed the product over the years, but we havent changed the philosophy, which is basically we look for stuff that has a lot of play value in it. We try to stay away from electronic or battery-operated toys where basically the child just watches the toy do something. Were looking for stuff thats more interactive.

That includes everything from dolls and blocks to construction sets and trains, items that clearly fall under the traditional toy store moniker.

We have some more updated items, but youre not going to find video games here, Monz said. We have a heavy emphasis on things that have enduring play value.

Specialty store. Shying away from the electronic toys that are so popular today creates a challenge for a toy store owner. But thats OK, because The Village Toymaker is looking to fill a specific niche.

One of the issues is that the toy market is skewing younger and younger as kids are getting into video games and maturing faster, Monz said. I dont know what the overall answer to that is. All I know is were a small store. We serve a small subset of the population. There are a lot of kids out there that are really into video games and are buying iPods at age 10. But there are also a lot of kids who are still into dolls and trains and blocks.

Time and effort. The Village Toymaker is operating under adjusted hours during the holiday season. Usually open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., during the holidays, the Germantown store will remain open until 8 p.m., except on Saturdays. The East Memphis store will remain open until 7 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays.

Between the two stores, Monz has 35 employees. But she only has a few who work full-time. Many staff members are mothers who work a couple of days a week and students who work after school.

Monz now has a manager working at each store, making things very different from the stores beginnings in New Jersey. Monz had always been a hard worker, but this venture turned out to be a bit much, even for her.

I had always put a lot of time and effort into my job, she said. When I first opened the store, I went for 18 months without a day off. You look back on it now, I dont think I could do that at my age. Its a lot more responsibility. In a big company, youre used to having somebody say, Go make these copies, go sweep that floor. When youre opening a small business, youre doing everything.


The Village Toymaker

Owner: Pat Monz

Founded: 1995

Basics: With locations in Germantown and East Memphis, the store provides traditional toys and personal service to its customers.


PROPERTY SALES 0 133 1,342
MORTGAGES 0 131 1,047