When you see the picture, it’s hard not to sympathize with Israel Warner.
Israel, who turns 5 in August, sat on the curb next to the Toys “R” Us on Lima’s Cable Road. His face was is in his hands, totally distraught because he couldn’t walk through his favorite store last weekend.
“He asked if he could go in, but it was already closed,” said his mom, Emily Warner, 30, of Bluffton. “We tried to explain they were bankrupt. They didn’t have enough money to stay open. People weren’t shopping there enough, so they closed all their stores.
“We say they’re not making any more toys.”
As he started to tear up, the boy had an idea, his mom said. His face lit up as he explained his plan to his parents.
“We can just knock on the door, show them we have money, and they can make new toys,” the boy told his mother.
If this were a fairy tale, Israel would’ve been right. His love for the store would’ve been enough to bring it back to action. That’s how it works in children’s books and movies, after all.
This was a place deeply ingrained in his young mind. It was a part of their family shopping trip from Bluffton to Lima at least twice a month. It was a treat for Israel, 3-year-old Cohen and 1-year-old Addelyn if they behaved during grocery shopping with Emily and her husband, Grant.
They didn’t always buy something. That’s not what made Toys “R” Us special to children. It was an opportunity to touch and try the toys they’d seen on their favorite cartoons.
“You could see if the luster wore off quickly on a toy there,” Emily said. “If they played with it for a second and abandoned it, you knew it wasn’t the right toy. If they’d go back to it over and over, well, that’s how we’d gauge which big presents to buy when we were going to spend a little more money.”
During their last visit to the store in June, Isaiah headed straight to the superhero section. Marvel and DC characters were “his go-to,” his mom said. Then they’d pass through the wide selection of Legos and Imaginext toys. Sure, Meijer and Walmart have Legos and Imaginext, but a few items isn’t the same as an entire section.
Emily had a hunch the store’s time was nearly up. She took pictures of all three of her children in the store, even 1-year-old Addelyn, who may grow up in a world without a store dedicated to toys.
“When she gets older, she may ask what a toy store was,” Emily said. “She won’t have any idea. I don’t know if that picture’s more for her or for me.”
Emily admitted she was implicit in the downfall of the toy retailer, just like we all are. She found herself buying more and more things online, especially if the return policies were good. It’s hard to beat the convenience of online shopping. Still, she was a Toys “R” Us kid too, deep down inside.
“When I look at that picture of Isaiah, that’s exactly how I feel. This is reality now,” she said. “There is no more Toys “R” Us. That store sums up my childhood. Now I have to be a real adult.”