As a little kid, there was a stretch of I-95 in Connecticut that drove right by a giant Toys R Us. There you’d see the neon sign, with giant Geoffrey the Giraffe head rising above the roadway – a beacon to get us to go there.
We never went. Frivolous shopping wasn’t something we did.
Then, one day, my grandparents were in town and they took my brother and I shopping. We finally got to go in to the Mecca of stores – I was home. “From bikes to trains to video games, it’s the biggest toy store there is!” I WAS a Toys R Us Kid!
Aisle by aisle the shiny new playthings stared back at you. Lego. Matchbox Cars. Crayola. Board Games. STAR WARS!!
When I was working Corporate for Prudential in the 90s, I met one of my favorite people on the planet – a guy named Jay. He and I hit it off quickly and became good friends. We shared a love for baseball and Rankin Bass Christmas specials. Most of all – spending all our hard-earned money on Star Wars stuff! We DID spend frivolously (too much so – but that’s another blog post).
When the prequels came out – were were on a mission. We knew when the stores would receive the shipments of new toys – and we were there. For the midnight opening sales – we were in the front of the line.
If a fast-food chain had a special Star Wars themed cup or toyline – we got them all!
We spent a lot of time at Toys R Us. If one of us went without the other, we would have special places in the store we’d hide the hot items so the other could get one too. It was awesome.
Not too long after this, I got laid off. Again. Corporate Trainers are always the front line for “luxury positions” and prime for layoffs. For months I couldn’t find work and Christmas was quickly approaching. I had young nieces that I wanted to spoil and unemployment wasn’t making that easy. It was time for a seasonal job. I applied everywhere. That’s when I got the call.
I was working for Geoffrey! As seasonal jobs go at Christmas time, you can imagine that this one was pretty close to trench warfare. No one over 6 years old was happy to be there, and they were definitely not happy with the silly dude with the goatee in the bright red shirt.
On Black Friday, I arrived at 3:30am to find the line wrapped around the building over and over again. I was stationed in the first section in the store and it was just duck and cover all day long.
But I was in my glory. I knew that store inside and out. AND I got a discount! On Christmas morning, my nieces were well taken care of.
When my son was a just a little toddler, I took him to TRU for the first time. His was bouncing up and down looking at all the shelves full of his friends – Elmo, Daniel Tiger and THOMAS!
His eyes were just as big as mine that first time Grandma and Grandpa took us.
Then in recent months, I heard the news.
Toys “R” Us, the iconic retail chain that has sold toys and games to millions of children for generations, is closing shop in the United States….
But in the age of internet retailing, Toys “R” Us has struggled with an antiquated sales model that could not keep up with Amazon and Walmart, and was burdened by $5 billion in debt from a leveraged buyout in 2005. – NY Times, March 14, 2018
It was going to be time to say goodbye.
Once the signs went up, I packed up the kids and went to the local Toys R Us for one last splurge. Even sitting in the parking lot all the memories from above came flooding back.
The kids and I toured the aisles over and over again. Where could we find a bargain (everything was ‘up to’ 30% off – Lego were 5% off)? We went home with an amazing matchbox car, semi tractor trailer carrying case, some Frozen dolls, art supplies, a giant inflatable pool and a few other things. It was a really fun night with the kids and a great way for farewell. The store still looked great, everything was clean and still pretty well stocked.
Then I made a mistake. Like trolling your ex-girlfriend on Facebook to see how good her new boyfriend looks, I made the bad call and went back again this past weekend. The sales were up to 80% and I had to see what was left.
We got there and it was different. Aisles were flooded with mess and the shelves were mix-matched with product. There were very clearly the D-level toys everywhere. Whole sections were empty and blocked off.
The employees reminded me of what I felt like after Black Friday.
We found a few last minute treasures and made our way back to the car. I couldn’t look back. It was too sad.
Thank you Geoffrey and Toys R Us. You were a big part of my life.
I will truly miss you.