It’s every kid’s dream to be locked in a Toys“R”Us warehouse; it should be every parent’s nightmare. Containing just about every toy under the sun, there are currently 873 Toys“R”Us stores in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Internationally, the tally exceeds 600. The flagship store in New York City’s Times Square (complete with an indoor 60-foot Ferris wheel, a life-size Barbie dollhouse and a 20-foot animatronic T-Rex) is the largest toy store in the world.
Sure, your kids can have tons of gee-whiz moments in a place like that. But where are the caring, kid-loving employees who would sacrifice themselves before allowing a child to even touch a toxic toy or to play a game that would not challenge his or her intelligence and creativity? Those are the kinds of people who operate Portland’s beloved locally-grown toy stores.
Too many local toy stores have fallen victim to a bad economy. Stores like Toys“R”Us that can afford to undercut the little guys, as well as new technology, such as the Amazon.com app that allows shoppers to instantly order cheaper versions of what they find on local shelves, are twisting the knife. Our children and community need our safe and caring local toys stores. Here are seven local toys stores that any parent would be proud to patronize.
Finnegan’s Toys & Gifts
Recently moved just a few blocks from its longtime location near Central Library, Finnegan’s lost nothing but gained plenty of natural light. The old location had its dark, cavernous charm, but when you shine a little light on a room full of toys, smiles just naturally break out. The usual assortment of snuggly stuffed toys greet you at the door. As ever, the place abounds with great games, books, toys and even stickers.
Finnegan’s Toys & Gifts, 820 SW Washington St.; 503.221.0306
Multnomah, Multnomah Village
Billed as Portland’s “most hands-on” toy store, Multnomah Village’s Thinker Toys sprawls over two large rooms, offering plenty of room for kids to give top-quality toys a test run. Owned by a couple who are parents and former teachers, the store reflects their fun and nurturing approach. Frequent buyer cards (store credit after 12 punches) and free gift wrap are plusses.
Thinker Toys, 7784 SW Capitol Hwy.; 503.245.3936
Northwest District, Nob Hill
Another venerable toy store, this one along the fun 23rd Avenue shopping street, Child’s Play has been helping raise kids right since 1979. The shelves are stocked with toys, games and stuffed animals that are safe and help inspire your child’s curiosity and creativity.
Child’s Play, 2305 NW Kearney St.; 503.224.5586
Kids at Heart Toys
Part of the Hawthorne community for more than 22 years, this store is jam-packed with the heart’s desires of just about any kid. Parents appreciate the fact that the toys are fair trade and made from sustainable resources. There’s an entire wall covered with bins full of plastic creatures, wind-up toys and erasers; there are cooking toys; gardening toys; stuffed animals; puppets for both hands and fingers; dolls; games and an entire book room, with books selected by the resident authority on children’s literature. Like the books, each toy is carefully selected.
Kids at Heart Toys, 3445 SE Hawthorne Blvd.; 503.231.2954
Vernon, Alberta Street
All the toys are non-toxic, environmentally friendly, natural, safe and meant to promote imagination and learning. There are lots of kids’ musical instruments and art supplies, science experiments and games for hands-on learning. There are lots of baby toys, including the soft “blabla” brand knitted animals. There’s a good book selection, too. While you’re there, check out the Wild Carrot kids’ clothing designed by the store’s owner. Free gift wrapping.
Grasshopper Store, 1816 NE Alberta St.; 503.335.3131
Piccolo Mondo Toys
Piccolo Mondo, the name of this shop in the Bethany Village Centre, means "small world" in Italian. Part of the shop’s mission is to teach kids that they are a big part of our small world by highlighting different countries each month and featuring toys from around the world. This family-owned shop encourages creative play and toys that stimulate the imagination. Here you’ll find lots of wooden toys, family games, arts and crafts, puzzles, books, science, magic, dolls and trains. Unique, quality toys, free gift wrapping and customer perks (a $10 gift card when you spend $200) keep shoppers coming back.
Piccolo Mondo Toys, 768 NW Bethany Blvd.; 503.617.0250
Boise, North Williams
There’s no question that kids are the guests of honor here. You find yourself in a playroom as soon as you enter. The fort, by the way, was built by the same guy who makes kids’ archery sets for the store. Other locally made products are featured, too, including exquisite fairy houses made of twigs and moss, rustic sailboats and mobiles with fabric birds. The shelves are bulging with lots of handmade wooden toys and a wonderful selection of books. There’s free gift wrapping and customer rewards, such as $1 credit for every $10 spent.
SpielWerk Toys, 3808 N Williams Ave.; 503.282.2233
The following children's stores also carry a fine selection of toys:
Aster & Bee, Black Wagon, Milagros Boutique, Mississippi Treehouse, Polliwog, and Queens MAB.