“I saw a need to bring more innovative, eco-friendly, educational toys and books to the community.” — Jeanette Lauture, Aunt Jean’s
Frustrated by a long commute and determined to fill a need for quality children’s toys in her community, Jeanette Lauture opened Aunt Jean’s Toys & Treats in Montclair, NJ, in March 2007.
“Toys were my enduring passion,” Jeanette told TDmonthly Magazine. “I saw a need to bring more innovative, eco-friendly, educational toys and books to the community.”
Also, leaving her job as a bio-pharmaceutical sales specialist and working closer to home meant more time with her husband, Lionel, and their twins, a boy and girl born in 2003. So, she shelled out between $185,000 and $200,000 in personal savings to get the store up and running.
SETTING THE BUSINESS APART
At the time of her store’s opening, there were two other toy stores in Montclair, but Jeanette noted that she researched what they were lacking and set her store apart in several ways:
• Customer Service
“We offer supreme customer service from the moment you enter … with our excellent staff asking a series of questions that help our customer make the best purchase for that child,” she told TDmonthly.
When a customer calls needing a gift for a party in half an hour, employees can pick out a toy and card, wrap it, and have it ready for the customer to purchase and get to the party on time.
• Special Events
Bimonthly and seasonal events at Aunt Jean’s Toys & Treats have included Curious George character/story hour, puppet shows, and Easter Bunny and Santa Claus visits. Manufacturer-driven events, such as those involving Klutz and Automoblox, are held as well.
• Party Registry
• Local Delivery
Finding a place for her store proved difficult, but worked out in the end.
“The original location I wanted did not work out,” she explained. “That scenario threw me off guard, since I was planning to quit my full-time job and even had insurance on the space. … Shortly after, I was blessed with signing a lease, and now have a much better location with a new family YMCA right down the street that offers party space. I get a lot of families visiting our store from that location and purchasing last-minute gifts.”
Profit from the initial investment came at about one year after the store’s opening. BRANDING WITH BAGS
Jeanette knew from the start that building a brand is important to a new company, and she set out to do that from day one.
“My logo and red/tan gingham bags are now recognized around town,” she told TDmonthly. “I have many customers tell me, ‘Whenever I see your gingham bags and when we go to birthday parties and see your wrapped gifts, we know it’s from Aunt Jean’s.’ That makes the hairs on my arms stand up. I have accomplished my goal.”
Anyone starting out in the toy industry should be truly passionate about toys and be comfortable working alone.
“Research your location and surrounding area, be organized [and] focused, and have a mentor you can contact with questions and to offer encouragement for those days when there are peaks and valleys,” she said. “But most importantly, have a very supportive partner and family.”