Tomorrow, Toys R Us officially closes its doors. Yesterday, my closest store had it’s final day of sale (my secondary store went the day prior). I’ve been stopping in on it routinely, ever since the announcement of the closures hit, observing it’s slow descent. Walking through the remnants of the store yesterday was certainly down-beat. However, this whole experience has been rather surreal for me, I think because it’s never really hit me quite the same way as other toy collectors.
In part, I think it’s because the store I’ve been visiting the last few months was never really “my store.” My Toys R Us, located in Columbia, MD, closed in the summer of 2010, rather suddenly. I’d just graduated from high school, was holding down my first job, and was getting prepped for my first year of college, so I was a little pre-occupied. I don’t think I had much of a chance to take it in. It just happened. After that, I fell back into frequenting another store, in fact the one that my dad had frequented as a kid. I’d been there many times as well, and it was one of the oldest in the area, so I still had some very fond memories. Perhaps more fond memories, truth be told. When that store shut its doors the following summer, it was more cutting. Despite frequenting it a little less, there were more fond memories there, I guess. Later that fall, the store that I’ve been frequenting these last years opened. It was a little odd, since it was literally right across the street from the old Columbia location. Completely new stock, completely new employees, just completely new all over. It was a little weird, actually. It’s location was virtually the same as the old one, but there remained none of the sentimentality of the first. It still became my regular location to frequent, but it never matched either of the two locations I’d already lost. Perhaps I just had less time with it to become attached, but I think it wasn’t helped by the fact that Toys R Us on whole was not as strong a business by the time this new store came along.
In general, my toy buying habits exist at an interesting cross-roads. There are many collectors out there with so many amazing stories about the great things they remember about Toys R Us. I don’t have those. Because, quite frankly, in my lifetime, Toys R Us has never been anything but a little disappointing.
As a kid, I had a local Toys R Us, which I loved, because toys and all, but it was rarely the first place I stopped. My toy store of choice was KB Toys, who always seemed to have the better selection, the better atmosphere, and the better overall experience. I only went to Toys R Us if I had a gift card, or if they had an exclusive item. Otherwise, KB it was. When KB closed up shop, I was very sad, but I think that’s because they felt like a store cut down in their prime. Toys R Us, however has sadly been past their prime for decades at this point. Watching them close is a little bit like watching the death of a relative who hasn’t really been themselves in years. It’s sad, but there was never really much to save.
Ultimately, I’m sorry for the employees who are now out of a job. I’m sorry for the toy companies that have lost a major buyer. Lastly, I’m sorry for the kids that will never get to experience Toys R Us. And I empathize with them, because I never really got to see it at its greatest. I equate my experiences with Toys R Us to watching the scene in the first Toy Story, where a distraught Buzz Lightyear tries flying for the first time. I wanted so badly to see them succeed, and they looked like they might make it so many times, but ultimately reality always set it, and they’d always come crashing back down to the ground. I’m sorry they never quite made it.
Still, even as someone who was never quite a Toys R Us Kid, I bid you farewell, Geoffrey. Thanks for making my collection 550 figures stronger.
*Also, I forgive you for that time your website totally stole one of my photos. It seems silly to harp on that now, doesn’t it?