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“Real Retailer” is a monthly feature where we discuss industry strategies, trends, happenings, or just about anything relevant with toy and hobby retailers across the country. If you have something interesting to say and would like to be featured here, by all means tell us! Please contact press@toydirectory.com

Real Retailer
By Karen Mendez Smith
February 1, 2003

Store Name: The Enchanted Forest
Store Location: 85 Mercer Street, New York, NY 10012
Store Number: (212) 925-6677

Once upon a time
Like a great children’s book, The Enchanted Forest evokes a place just this side of memory. Even before the door closes and the sounds of SoHo traffic fade away, you sense that you are entering an extraordinary place. Stuffed with hand-crafted toys, books and treasures of every description, the store is the gold standard in every detail.

Enchanted Forest's storefront
The bridge to anywhere
Each section is its own little universe, with a huge live tree in the front room to add to the fantasy atmosphere. Upstairs, where younger children’s toys and storybooks abide, a bridge inhabited by puppets leads from the land of plush animals into "The Tree House," completing the illusion that you are anywhere but smack in the middle of lower Manhattan.

The key to the kingdom
An independent store since 1984, Michelle Beshaw, Manager, attributes the store’s success to owner David Wallace. “I think the spirit of the place starts at the top,” she said. “If people are treated well, they will give all they can.” Having a diverse inventory also helps. “We all get to do a little of everything from stock to display to working the floor. That keeps things interesting, and because everyone has equal responsibility; it just creates a harmonious flow.”

An artistic aura
Enchanted Forest is open all but four days a year, and every day is a special occasion, with events such as artists’ exhibitions and group showings like "The Dog Days of Summer." The staff itself is an eclectic mix of authors, actors, and painters. Some, like Michelle, are professional puppeteers. Each is actively involved in discovering new talent to bring into the store. “It’s so much fun to find a new artist that we can represent,” she says. “We’re allowed to take risks. That’s a real luxury these days, but it also says a lot about who we are.”

Lo-tech lives on
The Internet seems not yet to be imagined (or necessary) in this rich tapestry of stories, characters and classic toys from childhood. “We’ve been on the Web for a few years,” Michelle said. “But selling online has not been a particularly great boon. We have a catalog, and really we’re focused primarily on the store.”

Romance and chivalry prevail
That focus shows in everything they do. “One of our employees recently held her wedding here. On her license, the place of marriage is listed as, "The Enchanted Forest." What could be more romantic than that?”

Writer's Bio: Karen Mendez Smith has been involved in children's media for over twenty years as a literary agent, writer, and creator of animated television and film. Co-founder of Satori Organics and M/Path Press, she is a parent to eight children and five incredible grandchildren (and counting).

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