Traveling to ASTRA’s Marketplace? Use it as an opportunity to shop the stores like yours – the independents whose unique and ever-changing product mix keeps customers wanting more, who generate happy memories for families with their in-store events, and work hard to create thoughtful and exciting shopping experiences every day.
by Jenn Bergin
Momo’s Tree House
205 Arch Street | Old City | momostreehouse.com
A trip to Philadelphia just isn’t complete without a visit to Old City, “America’s most-historic square mile.” Heather Mohorn opened children’s toy boutique Momo’s Tree House in the neighborhood in 2014. “You could spend days wandering the cobblestone streets between historic attractions, cute boutiques, and hip restaurants,” she says. Some of her favorites include touring Independence Hall and dining al fresco at Independence Beer Garden. “It feels like our store is located in small town within a big city,” Heather says. “Everyone knows each other and we’re really involved in the community.”
Her customers want personal service and toys they haven’t seen before, so the 1,940-foot store stocks hard-to-find “toys for curious kids” from Uncle Goose, Cate and Levi, Janod, Great Pretenders and
Kahiniwalla, to name a few. “Our store is welcoming and whimsical,” Heather says. “There’s a huge play area where kids can run around and explore, a craft corner that’s always stocked with supplies, a game table, and dozens of toys on display for kids to play with.”
Customers also visit for weekly Story Time, preschool prep classes with Montessori-inspired activities, and Music Monkey Jungle sing and dance performances. “Some of our customers want help finding the perfect gift, and others prefer to browse and discover with no pressure,” Heather says. “As long as they enjoy their time and feel good about their purchase, we’ve done our job.”
Happily Ever After
1010 Pine Street | Center City | happily.com
Antique Row is located in Philadelphia’s Center City (on Pine Street between 9th and 11th), and has long been known as the place to shop for collectibles and one-of-a-kind vintage finds. Here you will also find Happily Ever After, a 20-year-old toy and doll store. “We carry the toys you loved as a child,” says store owner Edward Ferry, like fine dolls from Madame Alexander, Integrity Toys and more; classic storybooks and playthings like Winnie-the-Pooh, The Wild Things and Madeline; tin and wood toys and trains; Jack-in-the-boxes; puppets; puzzles and more.
To educate collectors on doll artists and history, the store hosts monthly events for The Center City Doll Club of Philadelphia, as well as artist meet-and-greets.
But like many brick-and-mortar retailers, Edward struggles with online and “showroom” shoppers. “Folks in the neighborhood love our HABA tents – two are in our store window and three smaller tents hang from our ceiling,” he explains. “Customers see our displays and decide to purchase, but do so online instead.” This hurts the store’s bottom line, but can ultimately hurt manufacturers, too, he says. “Specialty retailers are the ones who display and educate customers on these products. Without us, the only way toys will get noticed is through big, generic (and expensive) TV and Internet ads.”
The in-store experience is what sets specialty retailers apart, he says.
“I constantly hear: I had this toy growing up! You loved this toy when
you were little! I used to play with this toy for hours. Seeing that toy brings back so many memories!”
Tildie’s Toy Box
1829 East Passyunk Avenue | South Philadelphia |tildiestoybox.com
The rivalry between Pat’s and Geno’s famous Philly cheesesteak shops is almost as historic as The Liberty Bell. Both are located at “cheesesteak corner” in South Philadelphia (at 9th Street and East Passyunk Avenue). East Passyunk is a vibrant and lively neighborhood with many chef-owned restaurants, shops and the famous “Singing Fountain” (which plays everything from old-school Sinatra to modern pop). But “the Ave” needed something for kids – so Michelle Gillen-Doobrajh and her husband opened Tildie’s Toy Box last summer.
“I was tired of visiting big-box stores where the toy selection focuses on the media and encourages gender stereotypes,” Michelle explains. “Personally, I don’t like to shop online – I prefer to see and hold an item before I buy it, and I think that’s so important with toys. Customers want to know what they’re buying is good quality, worth the money, and will actually add value to their child’s life.” Michelle carefully chooses her product mix based on these criteria, emphasizing toys that are tech-free, gender neutral, and encourage imagination, creativity and exploration.
Even more important, the store is fun, she says. “We try to make everyone that comes through our door feel special and welcome. We remember our local customers by name and greet everyone with a smile.”
Customers (and kids) are encouraged to interact with the toys before purchasing. There are lots of events and festivals on the avenue, during which Tildie’s hosts fun activities for the neighborhood kids. “I think the best toy store not only excites kids, but makes adults feel like kids again, too!”
the Kids Shop at Please Touch Museum
4231 Avenue of the Republic | Fairmount Park |pleasetouchmuseum.org
In 1876, 10 million people traveled to Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park – one of the world’s largest urban green spaces – for the nation’s Centennial celebration. Memorial Hall, now a National Historic Landmark, was constructed as an art gallery for the Centennial, and later became home to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In 2008, Memorial Hall underwent extensive renovations and became the new home of the Please Touch Museum – one of the country’s premier children’s museums, designed for ages 7 and under, but really, fun for kids of any age.
Of course, it has a museum store – and in this case, it’s a toy store! the Kids Shop at Please Touch Museum is “designed to help children learn through play; build on hands-on learning that happens in exhibits; showcase new and timeless children’s books, classic games, creative puzzles, special holiday gifts, souvenirs and more.” The curated collection of toys is expert-approved by the museum’s educators and play experts.
“We consider the Kids Shop the last exhibit of the day,” says store director Wineska Diaz. “We want the shopping experience to be just as thoughtful and exciting as the rest of the museum.” The store features a reading/drawing corner with bean bag chairs and a kid-size table where kids can draw a picture of their favorite part of the museum. “It offers a quiet place to decompress after a busy day. The kids love it and the photos are adorable!” Museum admission is not required to shop the store, and proceeds support programming and exhibits.
Please Touch Museum features morew than 25,000 toys – mostly manufactured after 1945 – in six interactive exhibit zones across 157,000 square feet. Exhibits include a replica of the Statue of Liberty’s arm and torch made from toys, a 1908 carousel, and a Space Station filed with three decades of Star Wars toys. Activities include performances at the Story Castle, journeys through a rainbow tunnel, dress-up like a purple crayon, and more.