Sentinel Progress

The last of the Toys R Us kids

I guess by now you’ve all heard the sad news: After 70-something years in business, Toys R Us is closing. And I find myself oddly upset about it.

For one, I remember Toys R Us as being the absolute coolest store in the world. My 6-year-old son (who I have yet to break the news to) would agree.

But I think the part that bothers me the most isn’t exactly that they’re closing, it’s more of a general wistfulness for “the way things were.”

Shopping wise, stores that I grew up with are dropping like flies as of late. JCPenny and K-mart are on their last legs. A week after Toys R Us made their announcement, it was reported Claire’s was shutting down. Sears has been in trouble for a while.

But those are just the recent ones that pop into memory, what about Waldenbooks? B. Dalton? When was the last time you saw a Woolworth or a KB Toys?

I’ll give you an example. The other day I was in Haywood Mall and do you know how many toy stores are in the mall nowadays?

Zero.

Now, I feel a little silly going off on the whole “when I was a kid” thing because I realize the average age of newspaper subscribers is 55 and over. I’m 36. Statistically speaking, to most of you out there reading this, I am a kid.

Do me a favor and just suspend that thought process for next few paragraphs …

I didn’t grow up in South Carolina, I’m from Michigan. But from what I understand, pretty much all shopping malls were the same no matter where you’re from.

You had the big anchor stores (JCPenny, Sears), the food court, a movie theater, arcade, a pet store, at least two bookstores, a couple of shoe stores, smaller clothing places, the ever present Spencer’s and — of course — the toy stores.

What was a mall without a KB Toys?

My point is that’s no longer the case. You can wander around Haywood all day but you won’t find a book store. Or a pet store. Or an arcade.

I’m not sure they ever had a movie theater, (so we’ll let that one go) but seriously, it’s all hat stores and shoe stores now. And they all sell the same hats and shoes!

Who puts a shoe store that sells Vans right next to the actual Vans store? How does this make sense?

The Disney stores are gone, the Warner Brothers store is gone — oh, but there’s an Apple store. Boring.

Williams-Sonoma is great if you feel like paying $8,000 for a cheese slicer but for real, malls are no longer geared towards families. The stores now market to older housewives with good credit and a ridiculous notion of how much a can opener should cost.

A lot of people are blaming online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay, perhaps rightfully so. America is a capitalist country and the bottom line is it’s cheaper, faster and easier in many cases to buy online than in the store. (Trust me, being in the newspaper business, I know a little something about struggling to stay relevant in a digital world.)

But you miss out on the whole experience of it.

Do me a favor, before they close for good, grab your kids, grand-kids, nieces and nephews — whatever — and take them to Toys R Us. See their faces light up when they realize it’s not just one little section but a whole store of nothing but toys. Let them run from aisle to aisle completely losing their minds.

Then later, let them scroll through Amazon and see if you get the same reaction.

Losing elements of your childhood is unavoidable, it’s just part of getting older.

But as for me? I’ll always be a Toys R Us kid.

https://www.sentinelprogress.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_1.jpg

Strickly Speaking

Kasie Strickland

Kasie Strickland is the managing editor for The Sentinel-Progress and can be reached at kstrickland@championcarolinas.com. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not necessarily represent the newspaper’s opinion.