Updated: Sep 16, 2019
All over the nation, Toys "R" Us is biting the dust. With online stores offering better prices and more convenience, it's not a surprise. However, for generations of kids who grew up with wide-eyed shopping excursions, it is a disappointment. For a long time, Toys "R" Us was the place to discover the latest and greatest playthings. The closing of this retail entity marks the end of a shared experience for millions. I still miss Kay-Bee Toys, and I don't suspect this loss will be any easier.
Our location has some more time on life support, but I don't get to the area that often. I had the day fairly open, so I thought I would take a scooter road trip, and drop by to check it out. It was a completely spontaneous decision, and the visit was bittersweet.
This Toys "R" Us store has been around since 1987. Here's one of the company's commercials from that year, touting none other than my childhood console, the Sega Master System.
Throughout the years, I've bought untold amounts of video games and action figures from here, and drooled over even more. About twelve years ago, I walked several miles to this Toys "R" Us. I was in the area, helping out a blind piano tuner. He had a car, but could no longer drive. My mom dropped me off at his house, and after I was done driving him to his client and back, I made the trek. I told my dad ahead of time that I wanted him to meet me in the Toys "R" Us parking lot. He couldn't believe I would walk so far unnecessarily. The trip culminated with the pictured Commemorative Series Rodimus Prime Transformer. I wasn't about to walk all that way for nothing!
I've been friends with one of the store's employees, Theresa, for probably over ten years. She used to be a regular at Time-Out, the arcade I where I worked. (She and her siblings once came through in the clutch, and helped in moving machines during a big remodel. They worked only for tokens and pizza.) The last time that I had been at this Toys "R" Us location was three days before Halloween 2017, when my wife and I dropped by to show Theresa and crew our Ghostbusters gear. She's one of the biggest Ghostbusters fans I've ever met, so I knew she would appreciate the effort. The following picture, which Theresa took herself, was shortly before I completed the uniform with my ghost trap and PKE meter:
As a nod to this specific memory, I thought that getting a Ghostbusters item as my last Toys "R" Us purchase would provide a kind of closure. I picked up this Ghostbusters II Louis Tully figure for $10.20, after tax. Everything was deeply discounted, and the store was packed with merchandise, but shoppers were scarce. It was a Saturday afternoon. (If the weather had been bad, the place might have been busier. But it doesn't matter at this point, the store being in its death throes.) As I type this, the figure is already hanging on my wall, joining the aforementioned ranks of toys forever sealed in boxes.
It will truly be a sad day when our Toys "R" Us finally closes its doors. Theresa told me the location may become host to an indoor sports complex, which already has a facility in a neighboring city. The store's crew seemed to be upbeat, despite the fact that for some, unemployment was imminent. But come to think of it, I don't think I've ever seen Theresa in a bad mood. Here we are, in the midst of an emotional reunion:
Before I left, she told me it was Free Comic Book Day. You can't pass up something like that, so I swung by the local comic book shop on my way home! I picked up a bunch of free issues, but I didn't want to be a dirtbag. All I had on me at that point was a lone dollar, so I was glad to find this comic, with a cover price of that exact amount.
I brought it up to the counter, but the store's owner told me not to worry about it. Score! Seeing as I didn't spend a cent there, I couldn't bring myself to scarf down any of their snacks. This revelation will likely come as a shock to my wife, who knows of my penchant for nabbing every conceivable freebie.
Overall, it was a fun little jaunt, if not somewhat emotional. While I will miss Toys "R" Us, I feel privileged to be a member of a generation which got to experience the store. When it comes to shopping for toys, I'll navigate aisles over websites any day. And if you're into defunct retail, be sure to read the site's articles on Kay-Bee Toys and K-Mart! (The lesson: If you want a successful business, don't start the name with a K.)