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11/14/2004

Toys are back in town

By Tony Kindelspire
The Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT — What’s a mall without a toy store?

Shoppers at Twin Peaks Mall won’t be asking that question anymore, at least not for the next 60 days. The mall now has a toy store for the first time since KB Toys filed for bankruptcy and closed most of its Colorado stores at the beginning of the year.

PlayFair Toys opened Nov. 1, and judging by the activity there Thursday morning, business has been brisk.

“We were contemplating opening (in the mall), and we were just talking to our customers about it, and we had a quantitative number of them that said, ‘Oh, I drive from Longmont,’” said Marilyn Walker, president of Boulder Toy Co., PlayFair’s parent company.

Walker’s company bought PlayFair Toys — including the name, storefront location, catalog and Web site — in January. The store first opened on Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall in 1983, though the Boulder store is now at 1690 28th St.

Walker has only a two-month lease at Twin Peaks, and she said she’ll decide by mid-December whether to keep this second location open.

“It was really the mall that came to us,” Walker said. “They wanted a toy store — they had worked with PlayFair before — and my initial reaction to it was we couldn’t handle it. We basically had to double our staff to do this.”

After being approached by mall staff — including general manager Nancy Rezac — one of Walker’s employees, a grandmother who lives in Longmont, encouraged Walker to open the store here.

“We went on a hunt for a toy store because we knew that’s something we would like to have for the center, especially for the holidays,” Rezac said.

PlayFair was one of three area stores the mall approached, she said. “We just figured that someone on the local level would have more flexibility to make a decision to come to Twin Peaks.”

Rezac said PlayFair was attractive to her because of its focus on educational and specialty toys rather than strictly entertainment. You won’t find any toy guns or violent video games on the shelves; instead, the toys are focused on expanding a child’s imagination.

“Catch of the Day,” a magnetic fishing game in which the fish actually swims, is one of the hot sellers this season, Walker said. So are Groovy Girls and action-adventure toys for boys called “Imagination Adventure.” They’re similar to other products out there, but these use snowmobiles, float-planes and waverunners.

Walker said PlayFair works with 500 to 600 manufacturers.

“We’re still ramping up. You can’t even get in our back room right now,” she said.

Walker said PlayFair’s business is split about 50-50 between store sales and sales through the catalog and the Internet. She expects the Christmas shopping season to account for about 30 percent of overall annual sales.

“In December, you’ll do about four times (the sales of) a normal month,” Walker said.

For Rezac, whose mall staff is busy gearing up for their busiest time of the year, it’s comforting to know that shoppers this season won’t be asking, “When are you going to get a toy store?” And Walker’s store seems to be a nice fit for the mall, she said.

“We thought educational was the way to go,” Rezac said.

Tony Kindelspire can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 291, or by e-mail at tkindelspire@times-call.com.