Each of the family-owned shops in Toys & Co.'s chain is an oasis of fun and interactive play for kids, housing shelves loaded with dolls, stuffed animals, and games. During visits to the magical emporium, children while away the time playing with trains and melting away the stresses of preschool or slow business at their lemonade stand. Kids of all ages can sharpen cognitive skills with diversions such as puzzles and word games, including developmental infant toys to boost burgeoning motor functions.
For more than 60 years, Toys“R”Us has been helping kids be kids and grown-ups to revisit their childhoods by providing one of the largest selections of top-brand toys, electronics, games and everyday baby essentials. Founder, Charles Lazarus, revolutionized the toy business by modeling his stores after supermarkets, providing a variety of options to suit varying ages and interests and offering customers to help themselves and have fun in the process. Today, that sense of playfulness is evident at nearly 600 stores in the United States alone, including a flagship location in Times Square where kids are greeted by a 60-foot Ferris wheel, a 5-ton animatronic T-Rex, and a life-sized, 4,000-square-foot Barbie house.
Beyond everybody's favorite bikes, trains and video games, each Toys“R”Us store keeps its shelves stocked with the season’s must-have toys as well as nostalgic standbys that never go out of style. Time-tested brands such as LEGO, Radio Flyer, NERF and Fisher-Price share the shelves with an expansive selection of electronics for older kids, including Wii U and tablets. And though the company has inspired generations of boys and girls to try their hardest not to grow up, it also strives to ensure budding brains develop right on track by devoting a significant portion of its stores to “smart-play” with a wide selection of electronic learning toys and software.
Toys“R”Us—whose extended family of brands includes Babies“R”Us and FAO Schwarz—has earned a number of awards and recognitions through the years, including a spot on Fortune’s list of the World’s Most Admired Companies in 2012. The company has also drawn considerable recognition for its expansive charitable efforts, which include partnerships with the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation and Save the Children. This year also marks the tenth consecutive year that the company has partnered with the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation to collect new, unwrapped toys and monetary donations in its stores to benefit the organization.
Named the best toy store in Western North Carolina by Mountain Xpress for five years running, Dancing Bear Toys overflows its two locations in Asheville and Hendersonville with an ever-evolving stock of high-quality playthings from top designers. Co-owners since the first store’s opening in 1993 and sisters since well before, partners Erika and Sarah routinely travel to the New York City International Toy Fair to scope out the latest and most exciting boons to kids’ imaginations, from wooden trains to broccoli-eating robots. Within the shops’ colorful walls, giant stuffed animals from Melissa and Doug smile down on Playmobil action figures, educational kits and puzzles, and a variety of children’s books, movies, and games.
Cold Stone's ice cream, made fresh in stores every day, inhabits a quantum flux between soft-serve and traditional ice cream, with a rich, creamy texture that whispers tales of its super-premium quality as it glides over taste buds. The ice cream generously welcomes dozens of toppings, as traditional as crumbled cookies and chopped nuts. Choose your favorite ice cream from dozens of silky flavors, such as cake batter and mint. Then make certain no one will try and steal a taste by topping it protectively with brownies, gumballs, and cherry-pie filling. Whatever Frankencream you create, it'll be scooped cold off the grill into a freshly made waffle cone or bowl. Cold Stone's ice cream and toppings vary by season and location. The store also offers sorbet and an array of lighter toppings, such as fruit and honey. Ice-cream creations run between $4.59 and $5.29, depending on size.
For Melissa and Aaron Rowland, opening Bumble Boutique was simply the next step in following their passions and dreams. Melissa had already kindled an intense love of quality, affordable baby merchandise, and the duo’s combined passion for providing for their daughter inspired them to help other parents achieve the same. They opened Bumble Boutique in 2005, lining the shelves of their boutique with children's clothing, toys, and accessories by brands such as Bailey Boys, Douglas, and Wee Ones. The baby-pampering paraphernalia is also available in an online store, allowing guardians to stay at home and teach their little bundle how to tie a tie while sleepwear, pillows, and blankies and apparel for both boys and girls come to them through the mail.