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Never too old for toys.

Hot Springs Couple Finds Fulfillment, Success With Specialty Toy Store

What do most people do when they reach retirement age?

Play golf?

Fish?

Travel?

Imy and Harriett Marcus started playing with toys.

Their Hot Springs specialty store, Toy Chest, provides them with a challenging occupation but not too much stress, according to Imy Marcus.

"Retirement is great if you have something to do," he says.

Marcus spent more than three decades in the retail furniture business.

He says, "I like fishing, but you get tired of doing it every day."

When he and his wife, both in their 50s, moved to Hot Springs to retire, they discovered that many residents were not happy with the toys available in area stores.

"While there was no shortage of toys, there were no specialty toys available," Marcus says. "... People told us they had to travel to Dallas or Memphis for unique children's toys."

After informally researching the idea, the couple decided to move forward. Money that had been saved for retirement funded the start-up.

When the couple left for their first toy market in November 1989, they didn't even have a business location.

"We had a lot of fun placing orders," Imy Marcus says. "But when we wrote out the check, we realized we didn't have a place to send the stuff."

Despite that beginning, Marcus says Toy Chest's success is due in large part to careful planning.

"A small business like ours requires a whole different research approach," Marcus says.

The toy business depends heavily on the Christmas season. Marcus discovered that small toy stores such as Toy Chest have a high mortality rate.

Location, Location, Location

But Toy Chest has an advantage -- Hot Springs is a hot spot for tourists.

"We get people from all over," Marcus says. "Without the tourist industry, we couldn't exist."

Marcus says many customers are grandparents who, strolling by the shop, stop in to pick up unique toys for their grandchildren.

The business' location on Central Avenue, the shopping strip that attracts the most tourists, proved to be a hazard rather than an asset in May 1990 when a catastrophic flood devastated the 2,200-SF space.

The couple lost everything.

"We planned for a lot of things, but we didn't plan for a flood," Imy Marcus says.

Less than two years later, the business is booming again.

The couple's daughter, Anne, has joined Toy Chest. Sales were up 50 percent in 1991 over the previous year. And Imy Marcus projects 25 percent growth for 1992.

The shop, which is open seven days per week, does business in all 50 states, according to Marcus. A mail-order catalog and toll-free telephone number provide the most opportunity for growth.

There are no employees outside the Marcus family.

Toy Chest continues to offer an alternative to mass merchandising.

"If a major toy store carries it, we don't sell it," Imy Marcus says.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Journal Publishing, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Arkansas Business of the Year: Category I; Toy Chest, specialty toy store
Author:Harper, Kim
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:Company Profile
Date:Jan 13, 1992
Words:482
Previous Article:Dent-Tec Inc.
Next Article:Tuning in to success.
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