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May 2008 | Vol. VII - No. 5
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Retailer Spotlight: Creative Kids Toy Shop

Distance and Obstacles Don’t Deter Their Customers


“When a father who drove his family from out-of-state to adopt a doll said it was well worth the effort, I knew we had gotten it right.” Melodie Ingwersen, Creative Kids
Although Melodie Ingwersen has childhood memories of playing “toy store” with her sisters, she didn’t aspire to be a toy-store owner, she told TDmonthly Magazine. However, she took the plunge with her husband, Lowell, in opening Creative Kids Toy Shop in Columbia, S.C., and 21 years later, their business is still thriving.

SEIZING OPPORTUNITY

“Lots of businesses come and go — even some of the big-name ones,” Melodie said. “Not only has the business survived, but we’ll have our 25th wedding anniversary this year. So the marriage has survived the business, as well.”

Melodie noted that she and Lowell began the business as an investment opportunity when the store’s originator, less than one year in, had second thoughts about her second location in Columbia.

“We had just moved to Columbia, and this opportunity seemed good to both of us. [We] had both enjoyed toy stores as children,” she explained.

MASTERING MOBILITY

After 10 years at its original location, Creative Kids moved across the street. Even customers got in on the act, carrying products across the road when it was time to transfer stock.

Melodie loves that fact that she’s been in business long enough now to see second-generation shoppers. Thanks to her cell phone and a flexible schedule, she’s also able to spend time with her own family, leaving the store halfway through the day to be with her three children.

“If things come up that the staff have questions about or are unsure about, they can call me. That’s the one bit of 21st-century apparatus that I use, and it does help me,” she said.

RENOVATING FOR SUCCESS

One of the store’s greatest successes, Melodie shared, was surviving a recent obstacle — a three-year renovation of the neighborhood that involved rebuilding infrastructure, digging trenches and remodeling.

“It took longer than the original time frame, and customers sometimes had to go through an obstacle course to get here,” Melodie told TDmonthly. “Now we have nice sidewalks, beautification and beautiful fountains. We’re looking forward to enjoying the fruit of all that reconstruction. We just had to hold on long enough to get there.”

Another big success has been the addition of a Lee Middleton Newborn Doll Nursery.

“We converted a portion of the storage room and office to the nursery, where we display the nursery dolls in a hospital-like setting and perform the baby doll adoptions,” Melodie explained. “When a father who drove his family from out-of-state to adopt a doll said it was well worth the effort, I knew we had gotten it right.”

SEEING THE BIG PICTURE

One lesson Melodie learned is to trust her initial reaction. Several years ago, she was asked to sponsor a children’s coloring contest for Disney on Ice. Although a newspaper was devoting its entire back page to it, she was hesitant.

“They kept making the offer better and better, and we love Disney on Ice, so I finally agreed,” Melodie said. “It turned out that … the story on the front [page] was about a nudist colony, and there was a back view of a nude couple going down the road. To even make use of the coloring contest, we had to cut the papers apart.”

At the time, Melodie worried that their reputation was ruined, but she soon put things into perspective.

“Most of our families didn’t even pay attention and didn’t pick up that newspaper,” she told TDmonthly. “Probably the only people who remember that are myself and the editor, because I was so upset when I called him about it.”

FACE THE FACTS

Melodie would advise toy biz newcomers to “overestimate your overhead and underestimate your profit.”

People sometimes start out with a great Christmas season, she said, not realizing that the business balances out over time. Having a realistic view involves looking at the big picture.

See what’s popular with Melodie’s customers in My Best Sellers: Creative Kids Toy Shop.



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Brenda RuggieroWriter's Bio: Brenda Ruggiero is a freelance writer from western Maryland. Read more articles by this author

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