Move Over Toy’s R Us For The REAL Toy Store: Children’s Palace I LRM Retro-Specs

Welcome back for another dose of LRM’s Retro-Specs! We are still hanging tough in the early 90s. Many of our nostalgic worlds began to crash when KB Toys closed their doors and then when Geoffrey the Giraffe and Toys R Us shut theirs. While this is tragic for many of us, the writing was on the wall when my favorite toy store closed in 1992: Children’s Palace.

Making Its Mark

KB Toys opened in 1922 and Toys R Us in 1957, but a hidden gem of a toy store made its way in 1962. Sid Schneider and Joseph Arnesano introduced Children’s World in Quincy, Massachusetts. After later acquisitions, the chain changed to Children’s Palace in 1975. At this time Children’s Palace takes the number two spot as Toys R Us’ leading competitor. The company would also implement the aggressive strategy of placing its stores close to the general proximity of its competitor.

This fact was definitely true near my home town in Ohio. My parents would get off the freeway exit and immediately seeing a Toys R Us and Children’s Palace approximately a half a mile to a mile away from each other.

Store Structure

Those with fond memories of the store will clearly remember that it stands out due to actually looking like a castle. The location designs boast battlements, turrets and the three arch entrance structure. Even after its unfortunate closing, many builds would keep a majority of the structure for cost reasons. The Children’s Palace in my area turned into a Media Play after 1992 and looked very much like the image below still keeping the battlements and arches yet while taking down the turrets. It was a sad, sad day to see those turrets come down.

The inside resembles a Toys R Us, but can boast the sheer amount of toys on display. The store had a warehouse-style feel with not only the aisles stocked with toys but the “over-stock” placed above the regular shelves! (Think Lowe’s style). This gave the impression that the store would have any toy that a kid hoped for! Often times they did!

Toy Selection

The toy selection was extensive! There would be the main sellers like the other toy stores, but for whatever reason, if there was a hard to find item, Children’s Palace would possibly have it over some of its competitors. 

I remember walking in and there would be a one-way path. It leads to an awesomely overwhelming opening with all of the heavily stocked aisles for you to then choose from. This was smart idea. The initial one-way path at the entrance would have many of the new releases or top sellers. Other hot items would be on the other end of the store. This is probably why the store always appeared to be packed!

If you were looking for video games, then it was near the exit for many stores. Once again good placement seeing as people would have to first walk past the newer/popular then walk across the warehouse passing ALL the other toys (which you had to stop and look at of course) leading to the end of video games and other hot items. You could seriously find anything here. From dolls/action figures, bikes, playsets, gaming systems, typewriters to above ground swimming pools (that’s right).

Fond Memories

I remember walking down the entrance aisle with my mom and grandma and immediately eyeing the Turtle Blimp for $20. Another character that was difficult to find in my area was Scum Bug, and my buddy and I found ourselves one at the toy store that had it all! The main fond memory I have is sitting outside in the car with my mom and sister while my dad went in to the store by himself. It was at night so when he came out I could not tell what he had with the bright lights coming off of the turrets and battlements only for him to get closer and see that he had…

THE Nintendo Entertainment System! For whatever reason, I clearly remember going to Toys R Us and KB Toys, but I remember specific toys I got from Children’s Palace. Maybe it’s because of the massive selection. Oh, and who could forget…

Peter the Panda: Where It’s At!

Toys R Us has Geoffery the Giraffe, so of course, their closest competitor needed their own mascot. Originally known as Children’s World the mascot is a rabbit named Happy Rabbit. He eventually makes way for Peter the Panda who brings the tag line “A super toy store…and a whole lot more!” Here’s the thing, someone didn’t just put on the costume and walk around the store every once in a while. Peter could always be found in a majority of the stores, but he would be roller-skating around saying hello to everyone! That takes some skill to be able to don a huge panda costume and fly around the store on some skates!

The Beginning of the End

In 1990 Children’s Palace would release the video catalog. A cool idea that has child actors discussing all of the toys for sale which they would showcase. Being an inventive idea makes it seem as if the company would continue to flourish.

Unfortunately, this would not make up for the hurt of 1990. First, there was a recession. Next, there also was not a big name craze that year. The previous year touts Teddy Ruxpin and Cabbage Patch Dolls. Many of the top executives who once made the company a success were fired. The recession hurt and some poor business decisions did not help. This leads to the company not being able to pay some of its bills.

This results in major vendors beginning to pull their connections leading to shelves not having a full stock which they advertise. The company tried bringing in former Toys R Us executives and even tried a later merger, which failed. By August 2, 1992 they announced that Children’s Palace would be closing down their businesses. 

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Did you have a Children’s Palace in your area? If so, what was your favorite part? If not, what toy store did you grow up with? Leave your thoughts in the usual spot, and thanks for reading!

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SOURCES: NY TimesAllison’s Written Words

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