This little gem of a toy store, is waiting with warm friendly arms to remind generations both old and new, what you can experience when visiting an independent toy store this holiday season.
Reviewed by Lorrie Holmes
There is something magical about a toy store at Christmastime. Especially a storefront one, where you can open the doors and be instantly greeted by all the sights and sounds that bring you right back to your own childhood.
We’ve chosen to do our first toy reviews this holiday season at such a place. This little independent gem is located right here in Delta, British Columbia, Canada. With such an interesting inventory and a very personable staff, Toys + Tech is one of those places that takes a lot of pride in making sure all of their customers are finding what they came in for, whatever that may be.
When you walk through these front doors you will always be greeted by a friendly, familiar face. And quite often, you’ll also find the owner herself, wandering around and chatting excitedly with her customers. That is, when Marleen is not out scoping what she’ll be buying next for the store. When she’s not up front with her customers, you can often find her in the back researching the latest and greatest new toys as she sits at her desk amongst shelves full of all those magical treasures she’s already sourced far and wide, that are now waiting to be introduced to her customers.
When asked what this season means to her, Marleen answers, “For me, Christmas is very nostalgic. It’s a time for you to reconnect with family and friends; to feel the togetherness and a sense of belonging. It’s just happiness in a jar! We all lead such busy lives these days. I was raised back East where everything was covered in snow at Christmastime which I really didn’t mind when I was young. The snowmen, sledding, fireplaces… it was all so cozy. So for me, as long as it snows on Christmas Eve, and White Christmas with Bing Crosby is playing on the TV, I’m happy.” Marleen reflects with a warm smile as all the memories come rushing back. “Whatever your traditions are…” Marleen continues, “…your Christmas just isn’t complete until you’ve done these things with your loved ones. Even if it’s as simple as watching a TV show together. Most likely, it’s one you’ve seen a million times before, but there’s always something different you’ll discover in it that you’ve never noticed. Especially with the children – when they’re seeing it for the first time, it’s like we are too – only now through new eyes. It’s the same way here for the store. It’s not about selling stuff at Christmastime. It’s about connections and family; about getting to know how we can make our customers’ holiday season better. They come in and share stories about their family and what their own traditions are – some funny stories of past holiday experiences and everyone is in a good mood because of these connections. It’s that time when everyone is coming together.” Marleen pauses then continues. “When I look around my store I have a sense of happiness and pride. It shows me just how far we’ve come from when I was young and what was available to me as a child. We certainly didn’t have the same range of toys and games. It’s amazing what they have for children now.” Marleen adds with a twinkle in her eye as she looks around, childlike. “This new electronic age is full of high tech toys, coding & programming games – but we still have that old school feeling as well, with our hoola hoops, marbles, play doh, and Tonka toys…”
As an independent store owner, Marleen has the flexibility to decide what she wants to bring in for her specific customer base each season, customized if you will, for her own community. In fact, many of her long time customers will make suggestions and talk about new things with her that they may have heard of or seen and think will make a great new addition to the store. Marleen is always up for these new ideas and receives them welcomingly. It’s like an extended family that way, myself included, as I have certainly spent many hours in this store with Marleen, and her staff – including Cynthia, a very dedicated employee who has been here since day one. Cynthia has herself spent a lot of time squishing mystery bags with my Lego collecting daughter, seeing who is more accurate at identifying their targeted new mini figs, and they are both surprisingly accurate most of the time. That experience was a highlight to our weekends for many years when my daughter was a bit younger – thank you Cynthia for those memories! Marleen laughs and nods when I share my own Toy + Tech story with her.
“I try to buy things that are different and unique along with tried-and-true items, including toys and games for all ages.” Marleen explains further, “When I first opened my store 25 years ago, it was a different time. We would have local entrepreneurs come in with their personally produced games and inventions for us to review and carry in our store. We were happy to help them develop something new for the market and many of them went on to be mass produced by the bigger chains… but they started here first and with others like us: the grassroots. It was a fun and exciting time for the toy industry. That is the type of thing that a small store is capable of doing because we don’t just buy at a big marketplace. There are still national and international toy shows that run throughout the year, some of which I have attended that bring in a much wider range of new and exciting toys and toy inventions. For some of these farther reaching locations, I have reps that keep me informed about new ideas, all of which I review and bring home the best choices for my store. As a small store, we tend to carry a fuller range of any particular line that we feel is right for us, and not just a few of their most popular items. This way, we have more choices for our customers to expand and add on to in their play or even as a collector.
Marleen adds, “We strive to provide this kind of service all year long and always want our customers to feel happy. But at Christmastime in particular, everyone seems to be in that festive spirit. When someone walks through those front doors, we look forward to greeting them and asking them if they need any help in their search for that perfect gift. Many of them reply that the are fine on their own to start with. But then there is that second when you look over and see that shift take place as a question forms in their eyes… That’s when one of us would walk over and as the conversation starts, we would find out a little bit more about their story and their needs. I just love having these conversations with my customers, many of whom have been coming in here for years,” Marleen beams. “In fact, many of them are now second generation customers as I used to help their parents find their gifts and now they are here with me, buying toys for their own children.” Marleen smiles and looks around. “It’s a lot of fun being so attached to my community and customers. People tend to come back to us because of their experiences here and the relationships we have developed over time. We get to know them; we know who they are buying for, and this all helps us help them pick out just the right gift. As we explore these items together, we share our knowledge and opinions about games and toys of interest and how they work so they can leave the store feeling very knowledgeable and confident about their selections.” Marleen reflects further, “We, the staff and I, love to do Games Night with some of our supplier reps. This is when we get together and test out new games when we can, so we can better explain them to our customers. We do this because we really do love to get involved in teaching our customers about these new games and toys on the market.”
To best present to her customers some of what she has to offer them this holiday season, Marleen has decided to have us review 4 toys for her. “I have chosen four products – 1 from 4 different popular toy categories in our store. These categories cover a wide range of children’s interests which is what we are constantly striving for,” Marleen offers.
Board games were an obvious choice and are top of the list for us at Christmastime. They are not only a fun activity but more importantly, they bring families together, whether their objective is co-operative play, competitive play, challenging play, or just-for-laughs play. We’ve all had our favourites over the years: some of mine are Rush Hour & Make n Break. So many new games are created every year, or changes to an old favourite take place. Take Monolopoly, for example. There are so many variations to this game now, from Canada-opoly to Pond Hockey-opoly, and so many more…. Playing games is the type of activity that can be shared and there are new ones coming out all the time for ages 3 – 99+. It’s hard to keep up with them, but we try our best to learn about and pass on what we can. The new game that we’ve chosen for you to try out for us is called Catacombs of Karak. It’s recommended for children between the ages of 7 – 15, but some younger children have also learned to play. Although I haven’t yet played this particular game, I have great resources who have reviewed it and recommend it, and I thought I would let you try it out over the holidays and let us know what you think. Whatever game your family plays, it’s a great way to create an interactive and fun environment to challenge friends, family, and also to teach our children.”
GAME REVIEW – CATACOMBS OF KARAK
The game we have chosen to have reviewed by KiDS NEWS & REViEWS is a strategy game called Catacombs of Karak. Players select their character and then enter the catacombs of Karac where tile by tile, they search for treasure. This particular game is great for people learning about strategies. With all it’s pieces and components, it’s the perfect game for anyone who has played risk or strategy games. Because they can associate with these sorts of games, they will have fun introducing their kids to these concepts, or anyone else who is also new to these sorts of role playing games. We have a lot of strategy games and love explaining to our customers how they work. They are great for kids who are a little bit older and a wonderful way for them to spend some time away from screens, connecting with others.
Puzzles are another must-have and are a super fun and inviting activity to have in your own home over the holidays. You can’t beat a puzzle when you are entertaining your family and friends because it’s something you don’t have to be glued to but rather, can take contribute to as you take your turn to sit down at the table for a short or long while. You can also get up whenever you want, interact with other family members, and come back to any point, and there it will remain, with a different group of people you can share and connect with. It’s not about everyone working on it at once but rather, about creating a place for a few people to share an intimate activity together. This is where you can sit down, get started and before you know it, you are chit-chatting about the day’s events because this sort of activity just puts you at ease. It’s a fun thing to just leave out and pick away at during the course of an evening or a series of days. Our large selection starts from wooden puzzles for toddlers right up to ones with 3000 pieces for those die hard puzzle fans. We chose the ugly sweater puzzle to be reviewed because everyone has an ugly sweater story they’d love to share. It’s such a fun theme. We’d love for you to stop by our store and tell us all about your own ugly sweater story!
PUZZLE REVIEW – THE UGLY SWEATER PUZZLE!
We chose the ugly sweater puzzle on purpose as everyone has an ugly sweater they love to talk about. It’s a fun theme. Everyone also seems to have an ugly sweater story. We’re really looking forward to this review. “Over the holidays, KiDS NEWS & REViEWS editor, Lorrie, will be hosting an ugly sweater night and cracking this puzzle open for her guests and seeing what happens over the course of the evening. Sounds like a fun way to approach this. We’re looking forward to seeing how this unfolds on Instagram.” Marleen explains with a smile. Follow KiDS NEWS & REViEWS holiday review on their INSTAGRAM LINK HERE.
Building something is always satisfying, whether it be wooden blocks, constructing wooden metal designs, or maybe even designing a marble maze – they all offer their own sense of accomplishment in your play. We chose Q-BA-MAZE because of it’s uniqueness. It’s a new take on marble mazes with the same popular building block function, but this one also lights up! It’s also versatile in the fact that you don’t always have to build it the same way. We think you will really enjoy it!
CONSTRUCTION TOY REVIEW – Q-BA-MAZE
Q-Ba-Maze has a new variation this year. This one lights up! What a fun idea. It’s such a creative construction toy as you can build your marble run maze in a different pattern each time. You can build it up high or in other formations. Kids love it, and parents do too. It’s great for the younger kids to be little helpers as their parents put it together for them. Also, it’s the perfect challenge for intermediate kids to take a crack at assembling by using their own imaginative designs. They can do this with or without a little guidance.
ARTS & CRAFTS
We chose Arts & Crafts as our last category because everyone has a little or a lot of creativity in them. We carry a huge selection of choices in this category that covers all ages, from early learners to teens and young adults alike. We’ve got jewellery making kits, art supplies, fleece blanket kits, stickers, colouring pads and lots more… Because the choices are so wide, this is where it’s so important for us to listen to our customer’s needs so we can best help them through the selection process since choices range from the very basic to being quite complicated.
ARTS & CRAFTS REVIEW – TREE HOLLOW by MY FAIRY GARDEN
This magical fairy garden kit is a very nice choice for kids of varying ages to enjoy. This unique product offers a combination of different interests and activities and is play based with a science component, making it a very unique choice. It’s very open ended which makes it so fun. It allows children to express their creativity while learning about gardening.
So, what are Marleen's own holiday traditions? Let's find out!...
“In my family, because it has expanded so much, we have chosen to trade off between Christmas Day & Box Day as I’m sure a lot of other folks do as well. We used to alternate between the families as to what day each year we would all get together and at which house – yikes! It can be complicated as our families grow, so now Boxing Day is when my side of the family will get together and Christmas Day is spent with the other side and we are all much more co-ordinated now. I’ll tell you one tradition I have with my own boys. It’s to do with those Kinder Eggs. Every year, since they were little, I would put some in their stockings. They would love to open them up and build whatever was waiting for them inside, then eat the chocolate of course! Well, my boys are in their 30’s now, but I still put those little eggs in their stockings and each year they still put these little knick knacks together – only now the grandchildren eat the chocolate! I’ll also always find a fun and fast playing new game or two at the store that we can all play together and of course, a Christmas puzzle!”
We hope you come to visit us over the holiday season. If you’re in the area, drop by and say hi. Share your ugly Christmas stories with us. Bring in your seasonal catalogue that we put out recently for all to enjoy and ask us questions about any of the products you’ll find inside. In your catalogue you will find a contest entry form. Fill it out and bring it in before December 24th to enter it in a draw! Even if you’re not closeby, you can still visit us at THIS FACEBOOK LINK where over the holidays, you’ll find updates on our KiDS NEWS & REViEWS product reviews. And, most. importantly, have yourself a Merry Little Christmas.
1274 56 St, Delta (Tsawwassen) BC V4L 2A4
Phone: (604) 943-8748
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