Sunday, May 19, 2002


        Now I'm pissed. The bastards have finally crossed the line. No, this is not the Middle East, nor the Taxachusetts kleptocracy that has me fuming. This is about toy stores and it's real personal.

        I read this article in today's Boston Globe.

The Children's Story will soon close. About a year ago, Imaginarium, an upscale toy store chain owned by Toys ''R'' Us, opened a few blocks away on Harvard Street in Coolidge Corner. In a scenario reminiscent of the Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan movie ''You've Got Mail,'' the big chain threatened the livelihood of the independent. And like the movie, the small bookstore tried, but simply couldn't compete.

        I love The Children's Story. In a world of cloned mall stores, it was nice to have this funky store that sold unique items. The proprietress knows me by sight (hey, three nieces and two nephews. Gotta indulge them!) and was always friendly and helpful. Oh, and the selection! They have a variety of wood toys and a brigade of plastic animals- especially dinosaurs. There are Groovy Girls, finger puppets and high-end plushies. I can spend hours there. Heck I HAVE! Just about every gift I've gotten (save for books) has come from that store.

        As for the Imaginarium, it's a mallrat's parody of an 'upscale' toy store. Though the floor space is far larger, the selection is not as good and I am not enamored with the items they do have. They have a poor selection of plastic animals and not much in the way of wood toys besides trains.

        There is one item they have that really angers me. They sell a prefabricated lemonade stand. Yep, instead of the tedious process of actually LEARNING how to use tools and writing the sign yourself, have Mommy and current Daddy load you up into the SUV and drive to the mall or the Harvard Street Imaginarium and buy the prefabricated lemonade stand. And in a week, it'll gather dust as you discover how unrewarding having something handed to you is. But hey, Mommy will find you some new creativity-stifling toy keep you distracted so she can tend to her busy social life.

        Normally I have little patience for those who scream about Walmarts moving in. Hey, root hog or die. However, to me the difference is that the Imaginarium may drive out the Children's Story, it will not replace it.

        Well, all I can do is buy as much stuff for their upcoming birthdays and next holiday season. Thankfully there are a few other stores around- mostly in Harvard Square- where I can find the unique gifts that make 'Uncle Totoro's' presents unique.