When We Had to Grow Up: Remembering Toys R Us
Sunday, March 18th, 2018 5:20PM CDTCategories: Site Articles, Editorials
Posted by: Va'al Views: 13,449
Be they Toys R Us kids or not, fond memories or barely present, there is something that struck a chord with a lot of children who grew into toy collectors, from Transformers and beyond. This is an homage to that, and an invite to anyone else to share their story. Let's reflect on the great memories of the past now, and let us know some more memories to the ones described below, and what you will miss the most.
Toys R Us is, with no exaggeration, my favourite store in the world. Some of my fondest memories, as a child, is going to Toys R Us with my mom and the money my grandfather had given her to find the perfect toy for me on my birthday. Every one of these trips is a memory I hold dear, even the time I picked up some Space Jam toys (say what you want, but a two pack of Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan was a dream come TRU).
Of course, Toys R Us is where I got my first Beast Wars toy, Terrorsaur, when I was eight. At the time, I did not know toys existed for the show I liked so much - though it was called Beasties in Canada - to the point that I remember telling my mom that when I grow up I will design toys that actually transform. I seriously did not know toys were advanced enough to have this happen.
I remember walking into the store and seeing all those gorgeous Transformers in there, toys I did not think could be possible. I remember a wall full from top to bottom of carded bubbles with so many different characters, shapes and sizes. It was breathtaking, especially as a kid. And I remember, later that year, seeing a column of Beast Wars Megatron toys, the purple on that T-Rex really popping against the neon yellow background, and telling my mom that this is what I wanted for Christmas. I remember seeing Street Sharks on the shelves, picking up a Mickey Mouse Viewmaster projector, and a Pride Rock Polly Pocket type set in a row filled with Lion King products.
I understand that this fairytale land I am describing might have changed in the US in the past years, with prices not being as competitive, and the selection not always being phenomenal. But our memories never fade, they are still with us and they will still be with us once all Toys R Us stores close in the US, if this is indeed what will happen. I am lucky to live in a country, Canada, where the stores are likely to stay open and where even my kids can be Toys R Us, as I was. So while this is the end of an era for many, the store we all loved will still, hopefully, be out there for others.
I didn't live near a Toys R Us growing up. The closest one was 15 miles away, and by the time I could drive myself, I'd lost interest in Transformers, and toys in general. When I got back into collecting, around the the time Revenge of the Fallen came out, I would occasionally check a Toys R Us if I was near one.
I remember seeing MP Grimlock and thinking that he was a cool, modern version of the Grimlock toy I'd loved to pieces (literally) as a kid. Picked him up, and have kept him in package since. I found a couple of exclusives there, and it's the only place I ever saw Generations Metroplex and Titans Return Fortress Maximus on shelves. But by and large, the stores seemed dated even a decade ago, and I never really grew up with a love for the stores and catalog that most did. Still, it will be sad to see an outlet for toys that most non-specialty retailers will never stock, close. RIP, Toys R Us.
My fondest memory of going to Toys R Us was when I was 9 years old. I really liked Pokémon but I didn't have a Gameboy to play it on. I saved up all year and worked hard to get good grades. By the end of the school year I had saved up about a hundred bucks (which is one million dollars in kid money!) to go and buy a Gameboy, Pokémon Blue version and a strategy guide. I had chosen the electric green Toys R Us exclusive Gameboy Pocket. Still have it in my desk drawer to this day in fact. I remember trying to read the guide on the way home by the street lights while my dad lectured me about not letting my mom catch me playing video games too much.
As I got a little older, in my junior high school years Yu-Gi-Oh was the 'in' thing. Sometimes on Saturday mornings I would convince one of my parents to drive me out to the store to go and play in Toys R Us Yu-Gi-Oh league. It was a lot of fun to just show up and play cards with the other kids. It was more friendly than the tournaments and competitive play at card shops. I can still remember getting up early, driving over there when it was a sunny yet chilly morning to go and play. I'd often have time to get a donut or something to eat before and talk about my favorite cards and strategies with friends. I miss those times.
The one thing I most get nostalgic about is Bionicle. I was aware that Toys R Us charged a couple bucks more for them but they usually had what I wanted. It beat driving around from store to store and winding up not finding anything. Bionicle fans of the 2000s will remember that the red and green characters usually sold first leaving a sea of brown Bionicles to warm the shelf. Toys R Us always seemed to have a good selection of them so I could get the characters I liked best. It was always so nice to see the rows of canisters lined up because I knew how much fun it was going to be to buy one, take it home, and build it.
I'd spend hours in my room making up stories and battles with my Bionicles. Back in those days I didn't have internet during the week, cable, or any games besides my Gameboy so I entertained myself with figures. I had superheroes, Pokémon toys, and some DBZ guys. I'd spend many an afternoon as a kid spilling them out on the floor in my room coming up with whatever plot lines I could dream up. Anything was possible. The creative play and storytelling I experience with toys is definitely something to get nostalgic about.
Toys R Us has been a staple of my childhood since the 80s and well into my adult years. It was the place to go while growing up to get myself everything from dinosaurs, to Jurassic Park/Jurassic World things, Star Wars stuff, and of course Transformers. The only other store I used to visit to get myself new toys was KB Toys. Toy stores like KB and TRU brought many a smile to my face and I would always spend a lot of time in there just looking at things and amusing myself. Sometimes I didn’t really buy anything as it was just about being in the environment itself.
Unfortunately, KB Toys eventually went under here in the US and now with TRU having the same fate I feel worried about the possibility of ever encountering a toy store and feeling that twinge of happiness I almost always felt when I went into one to get lost for a bit. TRU really helped though for me when I was feeling down or just anti-social to feel better and made it so my mental health was easier to shoulder. I am saddened, but I also understand that nothing lasts forever either.
I have actually been frustrated with Toys R Us over the course of the last 5 years. Some of their practices made it easier just to shop elsewhere. I was feeling kind of jaded by it, but now that they're leaving the landscape, I am remembering better times when they were a staple of my hunting grounds, and nostalgia is taking over.
I grew up at Children's Palace, so TRU wasn't a real force in my childhood. I got back into collecting in college, in the late 90s, and Beast Wars was certainly a catalyst. I remember convincing my roomates' with cars to drive me to the local TRU and wrangling the likes of Dinobot and Primal. They were fun trips and always some good brotime with the friends who humored my "silly habit".
Later at the turn of the century I would finish college in Chicago and there was the marvelous downtown State St. Toys R Us. It sat directly in the path of my school and my CTA train stop. Many toys were purchased there. Not just Transformers. And there were always sales. Sales GALORE! Even when it was just a stop to see what was new, they offered a warm respite from the harsh Chicago winter winds on my commute to and from school.
Things had been rocky between us lately, but you will be missed you goofy old giraffe. Thanks for the good times!
Oh Toys R Us, never did I think I would see the day that you would no longer be with us. Growing up, my parents would always take me to the store to pick out a toy if I did well on my report card or to commemorate a special occasion. KB Toys and Caldor were great but Toys R Us always seemed to be the go to place for the "good stuff". My childhood store was in Milford, Connecticut on Old Gate Lane. I can still remember walking in and the "window" where you would bring up paper receipts for everything from bikes to video games was on the right just past the maze of aisles when you first walked in.
I remember getting G2 Optimus Prime and getting it home but the electronics didn't work, so we ended up having to go back and return it. It was also the spot where just about every other toy line I became obsessed with like Mighty Ducks, Extreme Dinosaurs, and Jurassic Park was purchased. Every time I go back to visit family, my dad and I would always make a trip to the store to stir up old memories and see what we could buy without my mom finding out (yup even at 32!).
One of the first things that my now husband and I did when we first met was go to Toys R Us because he wanted to show that he supported my hobby of collecting. When I started my job upon moving to Michigan, there was a Toys R Us just down the road so it became a part of my daily routine whether it was a lunchtime hunt if the weather was bad or a quick stop on the way home. Over the last few years, when the shelved stopped restocking and the crowds had dissipated, it was becoming evident that something was wrong but walking in and finding something I had been looking for always put a smile on my face.
I stopped by Toys R Us this past Thursday and was trying hard to fight back the tears until I found a little stuffed Geoffrey. It's hard to believe that something that has been a part of my entire life is no more. Toys R Us, you will be forever missed and forever a part of our lives. Thanks for all the memories that I will cherish fondly for the rest of my life.
And how about you, Seibertronians and other readers? How does this news affect you? Do you have good, fond memories of the store? Does it hold a special place in the past? Are you not that invested in it at all? Join us, the Twincast Podcast crew (with their similarly themed episode here) in remembering what has been a staple of the Transformers collecting base for a long time, whatever your memories might be, and share some stories.
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Posted by Randomhero on March 18th, 2018 @ 5:32pm CDT
Posted by Acesmcgee on March 18th, 2018 @ 6:10pm CDT
Eventually the closest open store was too far to ride and so I stopped going as often. When my friends and I started driving I returned and it was our guilty childish pleasure as older teens. When I got married my wife and I would take our son there, and then daughter when she came along and it was so fun to wander around with my kids and wife and be a big kid, with encouragement from all 3 of them. Sometimes Janine would take me there to boost my spirits when work and school wore me down. The admonishment that we were there just to look usually ended with her buying me some doo-dad or toy.
When she passed away I went and took my kids there to get them away from all the tears and sad family 6 months ago, remembering how much happiness it brought me when I was young and sad. It was the most joyful day we had as a family in that first few weeks.
I'm sad to see it end, though all signs pointed it was going to belly-up.
I stopped into the one near my house and the one Janine and I bought so much baby stuff in (combo store) to say goodbye and thanks for being there for me and my kids.
The employees must of thought me a little crazy when I left with tears on my face remembering everything.
Posted by 1984forever on March 18th, 2018 @ 6:12pm CDT
So good riddance.
Posted by chuckdawg1999 on March 18th, 2018 @ 6:19pm CDT
Posted by Rated X on March 18th, 2018 @ 6:58pm CDT
Posted by RK_Striker_JK_5 on March 18th, 2018 @ 7:10pm CDT
I don't wanna grow up. I'm a Toys'R'Us kid...
Posted by Aimless Misfire on March 18th, 2018 @ 7:23pm CDT
That's my only really good memory of Toys R Us. After that they weren't very good & usually didn't have what I wanted. I got most of my toys from Child World, Bradlees or Kay Bee.
Posted by drogio on March 18th, 2018 @ 8:00pm CDT
My kids are 3 and 6 now, we have a TRU minutes away and some afternoons we just go there to walk through the isles. I wonder if they'll have memories like I do. It's probably not as special an occasion for them, but I know they enjoy it as it's pretty much a guarantee to walk out with some goody.
Either way, times have changed. You can get just about anything TRU has from Amazon, and many from target and walmart...usually at a better price. So I can't say I'm surprised. I will cherish the memories, and feel, a bit sad for future generations which will not know that kinda joy a kid has when first walking in through the doors and he wonder. But i see way it's time has come. Hope some day to be up in Canada and walk through the isles,once again.
Thanks for the good times, TRU.
Posted by DaXtraLargeRobot on March 18th, 2018 @ 8:02pm CDT
Posted by Ironhidensh on March 18th, 2018 @ 8:22pm CDT
The nostalgia came back strong this week. For the past 10 years, hell, the past 20 years really, I hand cared much for TRU. They are overpriced, and badly stocked. The only reason to really browse are for those exclusive or high end items that Wal-Mart and such won't carry. I honestly haven't enjoyed the store since the late 90's. That makes it easy to forget the good times.
Thus week, though, I remembered. And what good times they were.
I grew up in a small town (Buchanan, MI) in the 80's. The closest big store was Kmart in the next town over. TRU was almost an hours drive away in Mishawaka, IN. My mom was a single mom going through nursing school so we didn't do many big trips (hey, that's what it was to a tiny little kid) till she was done with that. So I very much remember my first trip to TRU.
This would have been late in 1985. I was a huge fan of M.A.S.K. and Kmart hadn't really started carrying much of that brand. I wanted Rhino, so mom took me into "the city" and TRU.
I'll never, ever forget that feeling as I walked in. It felt like, to a five year old little boy, that the toys were stacked floor to ceiling. All kinds of stuff for little kids. Then we got to the boys section in the back of the store. I just couldn't believe my eyes: an entire aisle of G.I.Joe! Not just a section of an aisle, but the whole freaking aisle! I turned around, and me there was the same for Transformers! Except for the very end, where the Gobots and M.A.S.K. were. There was Rhino! I went to grab one, but what did I see? No, it could be, could it? It was.
Boulder Hill playset. Man, I didn't even know they made one of these!
I immediately started to negotiate beg my mother for this. I didn't that day, though I did get it for Christmas that year.
We didn't even get Rhino. I opted for the much smaller Condit, so I could get a transformer as well, Jazz, if I remember right, and a couple of Joe figures. Then we kept walking and I discovered the largest selection of Lego sets I had ever seen. It was honestly quite over whelming to me.
Over the years, the trips to TRU would be special occasions for me and my mom, and it was many a year before I lost that sense if wonder.
As the 80's ended, and the 90's began, video games started to take more and more space, but I still found this amazing. You see, TRU would have demo consuls set up that you could play. While we weren't poor by any means, my momdidnt have the money for video games, so this was my access to them as a child. I would drive my mom nuts with how long I wanted to sit and play. As a teenage, when ibwas able to drive, I would go there for something to do while staying away from my step father. TRY served me well.
As the new mellinium came to be, TRU started to change, and not for the better. Selection and aisle size shrank, clothes and baby items took up more space, and stocking was an iffy thing. Prices climbed way up as well. The place became less unique, and more like an oversized Wal-Mart toy section. It was a shame, but what's done is done.
For me, I'll chose to keep and hold those warm and wonderful 30+ year old memories. Though I will always be a tad sad that my own boys won't get those memories.
Posted by dragons on March 18th, 2018 @ 8:31pm CDT
Posted by Bronzewolf on March 18th, 2018 @ 10:01pm CDT
For instance I was in my local one yesterday, and noticed for the first time they actually had Bandai Tamashii Dragon Ball and Digimon figures. I had no clue! While I don't collect either, I was extremely impressed. Despite being through several actual collectible stores countless times, I had never actually seen these figures in real life. You have my respect, Toys R Us. Not for your prices, or your rewards program, but for your dedication to our demographic.
I thought about using this angle as a contribution to the article above, but I didn't think I could stretch it out enough to fit it well in the article. Guess I was wrong.
Posted by butcher31 on March 18th, 2018 @ 10:17pm CDT
The reality came in '93 when they arrived in Australia (along with their similar short-lived competitor, World 4 Kids). They were good, but not quite as I'd imagined. They had the same types of toys as the smaller shops, just more of them and at similar prices. Although the size alone made them a good novelty and you were more likely to find what you were after.
If they do close in Australia as well it'll be sad, but not devastating. I just hope it doesn't then affect the actual toy manufacturers too substantially.
Posted by DarkEnergon on March 18th, 2018 @ 10:40pm CDT
I would hit that hasbro aisle and read every GI Joe file and transformers tech spec, and would alway have 5 dollars to spend. Never quite enough to get a deluxe transformer, but always enough for a little one, or a gi joe action figure. $3.99! I procured bumblee, warpath, seaspray, gears, windcharger and I'm sure a few more over 84 and 85 before GI Joe really took over for me.
There was just a huge land of stuff to checkout, but I just camped out in that action figure aisle, so excited to have seemingly endless time alone to just decide on my one purchase!
I remember so clearly just carrying my little warpath with me everywhere
Posted by Wolfguard on March 19th, 2018 @ 12:54am CDT
With regards to the end of this company we all know so well...it's a sad story to be sure, but my sadness is for the people who will lose their jobs. I hope they will not have to wait long to find something else after they get their walking papers.
For the toys and memories of the place...it's a rather odd synchronicity for me. I'm at a point in my life where I see so many cool Transformers which I want and could get, but instead, I stop and think to myself that I need to save my money for other things which are far more important than my plastic crack addiction. Things like an overseas trip, taking care of my 15yr old dog, being the head of the household, and a potential relationship with someone.
The choice of where my money and time go these days and onward are set in stone. There is no longer any room in my mind or home for more of these things. The title of the article is poignant, significant, and utterly personal for me: When we had to grow up...
Posted by Immortal Starscream on March 19th, 2018 @ 7:32am CDT
My friend and I used to run the Yugi-oh and Pokemon Leagues at toys r us every saturday. we would have some days 60+ kids and adults. toys r us hooked us up with all kinds of goodies and discounts, and also gave us tons of merchandise to help promote, such as other ccg's, action figures, and one of my personal faves: one day we got this huge box with 6 free heroscape master sets, 8 of the tru exclusive xpacs to give away and try out. it was a blast.
this friend and I actually met at that toys r us. I has been going there regularly to check for transformers, and at the time i has imported almost all the car robots 2000 line. didnt have internet at the time, and didnt know that R.I.D. was going to be a thing. the only one I didnt have was God Magnus. so I walk into tru, and theres everything. i was freaking out. and a little mad given how much I had paid for mine lol. but no magnus. I was just thinking man, I wonder if they will bring him out, when I turn around and see this kid holding Magnus in his hands.
So it looks like this kid isnt going to buy it, so i get all creepy stalker on him and sort of follow him. when he realized I wanted it, he seemed like he wasnt going to give it up. So i decided to offer the kid money to not buy it. I figured it would still have been cheaper then importing it. so I offered him $10 to let me buy it. he checked with his dad, who turns out is a major toy collector. the kids we used to watch over said his house was where toys went after they died lol. he told his son to take the deal, and we got to talking. He old me he had a beast wars primal extra, and i hounded him for it. before long, we were spending friday nites together hunting toys, seeing movies. we became family. I watched that kid and his sister grow up. the kid now is doing storyboards and character concepts for disney and nick.
sadly, our toys r us closed down long ago. despite being a profitable location, the land the store was built on became worth more then the stores yearly gross, so they sold it. My friend and I both have had many of the kids we looked after at toys r us come up to us as adults (god im feeling old) and tell us how we changed thier lives in one way or another. one recognized my friend at the premier of the last jedi, and invited us to his private screening of the movie~
part of me is still holding out hope that some third party will buy the 200 american stores and save a company that was such and important part of my life. I will always treasure the time, memories, and the lives touched.
Posted by Va'al on March 19th, 2018 @ 7:53am CDT
dragons wrote:That's nice ...... I'll keep fond memories of store I use work there I don't need read other people stories about it if I want to hear other people situations about missing ToysRUs it will be people I know FAMILY not strangers on website
Posted by Emerje on March 19th, 2018 @ 7:54am CDT
Posted by ScottyP on March 19th, 2018 @ 9:16am CDT
This is my favorite story in the thread.1984forever wrote:I wanted to say something nice about Toys r us, but then I remembered an incident that happened to me in September of 1987. I took the bus to the Staten Island mall after school, and picked out the 3 Autobot targetmasters and Weirdwolf (who was the last of the 3 ‘Con headmasters that I needed, having already gotten Mindwipe on Father’s Day and Skullcruncher from a Brooklyn TRU over the summer.) So anyways, the price comes up to about forty something. I give the cashier $50 and then she starts asking me “did I go to school today?” and all sorts of nonsense... then she wants to see my notebook to prove that I attended school as if she’s some sort of cashier/truant officer. All of this with people waiting on the line behind me! So she confiscates my notebook and tells me to have my parents come and get it. I tell my Dad when he comes home from work, he races down to the Toys r us and the manager has the nerve to ask him “what am I doing with that kind of money?” So that was the last time I bought anything from a TRU until 2012, and that’s only because my son asked to go there.
So good riddance.
Posted by SJ21 on March 19th, 2018 @ 11:15am CDT
Even in my college years, when I was "too old" to buy toys I would walk through TRU for a bit of nostalgia.
When I got back into collecting and to this day, the TRU in Camp Hill regularly has the best selection. Target and Walmart don't have the variety of toys. None of them carry the higher end stuff like NECA figures.
I know TRU was often more expensive, but I will be sad to see it go.