With the announcement that Toys R Us will close all of its stores soon, there will be a large void where a giant giraffe named Geoffrey used to reside.
When I was a kid, the Toys R Us jingle was burned into my brain.
But even though I – and every other kid in the world – knew the jingle by heart, I wasn’t a Toys R Us kid. Growing up, the toy store I went to whenever I got the chance was called Child World, located outside the Wayne Hills Mall in Wayne, NJ. I got most of my toys growing up there, and I can still remember staring at the GI Joe selection, trying to decide which figures to spend $2.79 on. They were only $2.79!
When Child World went out of business in the early 1990s, a Toys R Us eventually took over the location, but I had left New Jersey by then. It was a long time before I lived in an area that had a Toys R Us nearby. I usually had to accept a KayBee Toys or some other pale imitation. But when I did get a chance to visit one, I savored it, looking at all the available toys and usually spending money on Transformers or Voltron. I didn’t want to grow up, I wanted to be a Toys R Us kid.
In 2011, I moved to New York City. It took me a few weeks, but I finally made my way to the Toys R Us in Times Square, and the child-like wonder I had walking into a toy store came right back. There was a ferris wheel, a giant animatronic dinosaur and Autobot leader Optimus Prime on display! And then I looked up.
Right there, hanging from the ceiling, the Man of Steel himself stopping a runaway truck! I was a kid again and it was amazing. For the first few months after moving to the City, I would go there pretty frequently. I wasn’t buying anything, because I was broke and looking for a job – and the modern mainstream toy selection is pretty disappointing anyway – but being there in that amazing setting helped me feel better on the worst of days. Hell, all I had to do was look up once I walked in.
And then, in 2016, the Times Square Toys R Us closed. Sure, there were many other Toys R Us stores in the City, but none like this one, a tourist attraction in the center of one of the country’s greatest tourist attractions.
After a series of closing announcements in recent months, after a lot of financial decisions brought on by bad decisions, the company’s decision to close everything down this month felt like a foregone conclusion. I made what was probably my final trip to Toys R Us this past Friday, looking to capitalize on the going out of business sale to get some stuff for my daughter.
Regardless of how I feel about the quality of modern toys, it’s especially sad that she will never have the same experience of searching the aisles for just the right toy. Sure, it’s a different era, and she’ll be able to look for toys in ways I couldn’t have imagined when I was a kid. No more flipping through a catalog to see what’s new and hot. All that information is at the tip of our fingers now. And once you buy the toy from your phone, it can be delivered by a drone!
Maybe the old ways aren’t as cool as I remember them being. But it doesn’t really matter any more. Soon, Toys R Us will join Child World and KayBee as just a memory of a bygone era, kept alive by memories of our youth.
I guess we’ve all gotta grow up sometime…