Thursday, February 05, 2015

Upon the Closing of Larson’s Toy Store

A locally owned 33-year-old fixture in our community recently closed its doors.

Larson’s.



It was so much more than a toy store for me.

It’s walking distance from our house.

When we moved from Atlanta to Ohio, almost 16 years ago, I didn’t know a single soul and had a new born daughter.

We took many walks up to the shopping center that included Larson’s Toys.

The staff never seemed to turn over. They got to know me and I them.

Sometimes, they were the only other adults 
I talked to in a day other than Monte.

They took the time to get to know both my daughters as the years went by.

My girls took craft classes there.

McDaniel put her little hand in cement for a garden stone that she gave to Monte for Father’s Day.

Ellie made a bedazzled tulle butterfly canopy that we hung over her bed.

And so many other things.

I could hand over my Christmas list for the girls to the staff and they’d tell me the best time to buy the items to get the best price.

They had a frequent buyer card program that I lived by. I’d save up my full card to get the $25 off to buy Ellie a Plasma Car for her birthday.

That thing was a blast! 

So happy that my cousin’s son is enjoying it now.

In fact, my cousin’s wife wanted to go to Larson’s when they visited from out of state. My sister-in-law too. It was just a unique, personal place.

So much more than a toy store.

They could handle birthday presents like no one else. And they always wrapped for free! They’d put stickers on the packages in the theme of the party or specific to the child.

Oh, and my girls would give them specifics!
I think one time they asked for bowling penguins--
and got them in sticker form on the outside of a 
brightly wrapped package for a friend.

I have always said that Larson’s helped me potty train Ellie.

She was a tough one.

It was the promise of the little bicycle with training wheels from Larson’s that finally got Ellie potty trained.

We visited that bike at Larson’s each week and the staff always asked Ellie if it was time to pull it down from its spot high on a display shelf.

The staff clapped and cheered for Ellie when it was FINALLY time.

She called it her motorcycle.

She may or may not have ridden it out of the store.

And I haven’t been able to bring myself to get rid of it. 
It’s still in the garage.

When I heard Larson’s was closing its doors in January, I rushed in to do my Christmas shopping for the littles on my list.

We are past the toy age at our house.

Sadly.

I couldn’t believe how empty the shelves were. And not a LEGO set left. I overheard the staff telling someone that they were selling the displays.

I looked for their signature giant stuffed lion that guarded the stuffed animal display.



Gone!

I was already feeling my eyes start to sting when I heard the staff, my friends, quote someone the price of the giant teddy bear that sat on top of the column by the gift wrapping station.

No!

So I stood in the empty LEGO aisle and cried.

I stared at the carpet that McDaniel peed on when she was 2 1/2 rather than stop playing at the train table for two seconds so I could take her to the bathroom.

The same floor that caught the unsure footsteps of my girls wearing their first Stride Rite shoes,

 to the women’s sizes they sported when still in elementary school.



I left without saying anything to anyone.

I left without saying goodbye.

Because it has always been more than a toy store to me.

I kept telling the girls that I wanted them to make a last trip into Larson’s.

Before it was too late.

But life continued to happen until last week when we grabbed a quick dinner next door and saw this sign on the door.




NO!

We were too late.

It’s like that part of the movie “You’ve Got Mail” when Meg Ryan’s character closes the bookstore her mother used to own and she looks back at the empty room for the last time and can actually see herself twirling as a little girl and her mother hugging her.

It is just like that.

One day it’s this:


Then in a flash it’s this:


Yesterday McDaniel was peeing on the carpet.

Yesterday Ellie was riding her motorcycle proudly out of the store.


Yesterday. 



A flash.

All those memories.

I hate that the little kids on my street won’t know Larson’s like my girls did.

It was the place to go when my girls had some spending money.

They walked the aisles slowly.

Checked out what was new.

Although new to Larson’s did not mean trendy. Their toys were quality. No Barbie or Bratz dolls. Lots of wooden toys. Hands-on. Unique toys that didn’t break three minutes after you brought it home.

Like the hand-pumped foam rocket that McDaniel got from a birthday party that my dad was so excited to use that he couldn’t even wait until he was out of the car from the party and shot the rocket out of the passenger seat window of our car right onto the roof of our house.

We spent the rest of the afternoon throwing things on the roof 
to try to knock the rocket down.


Or the game the staff highly recommended (and demonstrated for me in the store) that I bought for a game night at our church called “Jungle Jive”.  The object of the game is to do all these crazy positions as dictated by the card you draw while keeping upright a large plastic egg that has a sensor that will set off an alarm if it tilts too far from center. 

It’s hilarious. 

We took it to the beach one year.







I hate that our little neighbors won’t know the excitement my girls had at a birthday party when they saw that special Larson’s wrapping paper and customized sticker scene picked just for them.

But I’m so glad my girls did.

Thank you, Larson’s. For being there to watch my girls grow up right along with me.

You will be sadly missed.



Because you’ve always been more than a toy store to me.



6 comments:

  1. Karmen,
    This is outstanding ( as I wipe the tears)

    ReplyDelete
  2. <3. I remember you driving me past there. Sorry they closed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Karmen,
      Thanks. It’s crazy how much this has thrown me.

      Delete
  3. I am so sad that places like these are closing - the unique stores manned by staff that actually know their customers. Sorry for you that you couldn't visit one last time together but what wonderful memories you have. You can't take those away.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mindy,

      Thanks! I’m holding out hope someone will reopen something similar in its place.

      Delete