How one Montgomery Co. toy store is faring after the Toys ‘R’ Us decline

WASHINGTON — When Toys ‘R’ Us announced it would close its U.S. stores after decades in business, it created a wave of shock and nostalgia. June 29 was the last day to shop at the iconic toy store, even though many ran out of stock earlier in the year.

So how have some independent stores been doing since then?

This time of the year is always busy at Toy Castle, in the Cabin John Shopping Center in Potomac, Maryland.

Michelle Sodee, the store’s manager, said she could not see too much of a difference on Sunday, compared to past pre-Christmas Decembers.

“Right now is the holidays, so it’s always busy for us,” Sodee said.

However, Sodee said some people who used to shop at Toys ‘R’ Us are definitely discovering the small store in the venerable shopping center for the first time.

“They used to go to Toys ‘R’ Us, and now they’re coming here, which is awesome for us,” she said. “But overall, I wouldn’t say it’s a big incline of people coming in.”

One of this season’s popular toys is an all-time classic.

“Legos are always popular for boys and girls,” Sodee said. “Everyone loves Legos.”

Along with Legos and Barbie dolls, Hatchimals continue to be a hot item for the 5-to-12-year-old set. They’re shaped like eggs and come in varying sizes.

“They’re these little toys, and you hatch them, and there’s a character inside… and the kids love them,” Sodee said.

But compared to other years, she’s seen a new type of in-demand toy.

“I’ve noticed an increase in STEM toys,” Sodee said, referring to the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. She said there’s more interest in science kits and toys that require children to build something.

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