After two decades, Grow-Cery is more than prepared to help local shoppers find the right items during another holiday season.
“In this type of business, not much changes,” said owner Dee Stevens. “Everybody’s got a birthday, and it’s easier to shop for a present locally.”
The convenience of the Glen Rock toy store’s Rock Road location isn’t the only appeal to the loyal customer base that's come in year after year for gifts and specialty toys. Large malls and big-box outlets aren’t as close to home for borough shoppers, of course, but they also carry completely different products.
“I try to find new items that are innovative and a little different,” Stevens said. “If it’s a product I think is going to sell, I buy it. A lot of it you have to work on gut.”
It's also experience.
Stevens worked for close to a decade as a buyer for Macy’s, then in the children’s departments of other corporate retailers. When she became a mother, she left that career and inched gradually toward her own business.
First she became a licensed vendor of Little Tikes toys, selling them out of her home to friends and neighbors. When there was a vacancy across the street from Grow-Cery’s current location, she opened up shop with folding tables just for three months during the holidays. There wasn’t any going back.
Now she scours shows around the country and connects with vendors to find the toys the big stores might not even know about yet, and rotates the inventory to keep the small storefront’s offerings unique.
Grow-Cery carries merchandise for children of any age, from puzzles, crafts and classic toys to the latest arrival, a "book reader" that plays back recorded audio page by page as the reader flips through a book - a kind of personalized audio book for a distant grandchild, Stevens suggested.
“You get service when you come into a small store. I know my product,” Stevens said. “I have things you’re not going to find – for the most part – in Toys R Us.”