TDmonthly Magazine!
December 2010 | Vol. IX - No. 12


VIDEOS: How I Found My Niche

Toy Store Owners Explain How Passion Guided Them in Business

The first rule of business is that you must develop a niche in your market. But how do you find a niche and how do you know it's the right one for you and your customers? Since May 2009, TDmonthly Magazine has been sending video crews into specialty toy stores to ask them those very questions. This month, we revisit seven stores from around the country, all of which have made their mark on their communities and are guided by their owner's passion. Be sure to click on the article links, too, to read more about the stores, their owners and to watch videos of their best-selling products.


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Terri Weiss loved working in her friend's specialty toy store so much that she bought it from her more than 20 years ago and transformed the business into a private showroom. The Elegant Child of Beverly Hills excels in creating elaborate one-of-a-kind gift baskets featuring personalized and handmade items, as well as hard-to-find toys and infant products. About success: "I owe it all to the Internet," said Terri. Her customers, too, pass on the word and return for more. By servicing a unique clientele of wealthy celebrities, corporations and international travelers, Terri keeps her merchandise moving in the right circles. Read/watch entire article.


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In 2008, Heather Muenstermann decided to go green. She opened up Green Genes — an eco-friendly toy and kids' clothing store that specializes in organic products. Her mission is not just to give children safe, high-quality toys and clothing, but to help ensure that the world they inherit will be clean and safe, too. By avoiding products with pesticides, for instance, workers aren't exposed to toxins and the refuse from the fields doesn't wash off into local water sources either. Read/watch entire article.


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Erik Nakamura's Giant Robot chain of stores in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco, started as an Asian pop culture fanzine before the first store was opened in 2001. Committed to promoting the work of artists both in and outside of Toyland, Erik was the first retailer in the country to transform his stores into art galleries for special events. His quirky merchandise attracts mostly adult collectors, though lately there's been a crossover of designer toys into kids play. And just to prove how keen Nakamura's eye is, he's the one who spotted the potential of Ugly Dolls, encouraged the designers to manufacture the plush designer toys and sold the first ones in his shop. Read/watch entire article.


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In 2003, Ellen West opened The Acorn Store in Santa Monica, Calif., to stimulate children's imaginations. There is not a single plastic or battery-powered toy to be found on her shelves. She favors quality brands, such as HABA and Plan Toys and has devoted an entire room just to fantasy costumes for boys and girls. Her favorite part of t running a toy store is watching kids' reactions when they step inside the door: "Wow! This is a real toy store!" they exclaim. Ellen also offers variously priced products in the same category so that all kids will feel included. Read/watch entire article.


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Del and Sue Howison couldn't find enough horror-related merch to satisfy their own macabre tastes, so they collected the best
offerings that were scattered in various venues and catalogs and opened their store, Dark Delicacies, back in 1994. They keep customer interest "undead" with book signings and other celebrity-based events in their Burbank, Calif. store. Read/watch entire article.


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What began as a furniture store in 1965 evolved into a school and educational supply store that's kept three generations of Neelys plugged into the community. Jerald, grandson of the founders, keeps the store thriving by making sure he's a vital part of the community. He 's proud, too, that Neelys is a comprehensive store for student and teachers, where kids can find everything they need to make projects, from papier mache to animal figurines. The store's tagline sums it up best: "We Supply Everything Except the Children." Read/watch entire article.


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When Jeanette Lauture opened Aunt Jean's Toys and Treats in 2007, she stocked it with retro toys because "I want them," she admitted. She loves the reactions she gets from parents who re-encounter toys from their youth and from kids who've never seen a Magic 8 Ball or Slinky before. Situated in the diverse and liberal community of Montclair, N.J. , Aunt Jean's does its part by helping with helping with school and church fundraising events. The store also offers products in different languages to reflect the community's cultural richness." Read/watch entire article.

Do you have a unique toy store? Send TDmonthly your story or video and you may be part of our TDmonthly Goes Inside... video series!

Alison MarekWriter's Bio: ALISON MAREK is an award-winning writer, director and cartoonist whose work has been published by Fairchild Publications and DC Comics (Piranha Press), broadcast on Showtime and other cable networks, and viewed worldwide in film festivals. See her short films and print work on Watch her nefarious villains in the web series Get inspired by her cartoons "Daily ARFFirmations to Unleash Your Inner Fido" at Phew! And then ...  Read more articles by this author


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