My Brooklyn neighborhood is this mixed up mess of old-school barbershops, secretive always closed “confectionaries” bodega’s, amazing restaurants, crappy restaurants, high-end women’s clothing boutiques, a few chain stores, and many many many children’s clothing/toy/furniture shops. My first day walking around trying to get the lay of the land, I was awestruck at how many strollers were around. Strollers full of children sometimes loaded one on top of the other. Clearly, this place is ripe for boutiques geared towards the young’uns.
What’s shocking (shocking!) though, is the wide spectrum of customer service and attitude at some of these places. As someone who owned a retail shop for many years, I know that some days you just can’t have your A-Game on, so I get it that not every person through the door can get the best service ever. I’ve kept that in mind in putting together my impressions of the shops I’ve frequented here. But seriously, some of these places are just not trying.
|Pizzazzz Toyz: First, I must profess my love for the letter “z”. Six Z’s? Awesome. This place is kind of the nuts and bolts store for toys. Essentially, they have a giant space (by Brooklyn standards), huge selection, and decent prices. What they have going for them is a place that begs the question, “Are you seriously going to schlep all the way to Target to save a few bucks?” The answer is no, I am not. Employees are homegrown, salt of the Earth types. No attitude, no frills, ambivalent about helping, but never seem to be mad if you ask for it.|
|The Area Empire Strikes Back: Ok, that isn’t the real name; it’s just called Area and then what type it is: Area Kids, Area Play, Area Spa etc. But with something like nine stores (with five or six of them within walking distance of my home), Area is rather ubiquitous. What distinguishes this store from all other stores is the owner, Loretta. She’s one of those really pretty ladies that you think is going to be mean to you. But she’s not mean she’s hysterical. She says really inappropriate stuff with no apologies, but with an air of innocence that makes one feel like they’re hearing their Sunday school teacher swear. My defining experience in Area was when I found an Appaman Tracksuit for my son, but they didn’t have the right size.
(Sidebar: Roan’s Appaman Tracksui
t is the crowning jewel of his tracksuit collection. He gets complimented on it every single time he wears it, and I’ve had to purchase two more since the original to fill the demand for them, as gifts. Get an Appaman Tracksuit for your child now, and thank me later.) The kid working at Area found the right size at one of their other locations, and the Loretta delivered it to me. That’s the goods, right there. Area has a great selection of toys you won’t find anywhere else in the hood. They have some adult toys as well and I don’t mean adult toys you big weirdo I mean like Adult Scooters and such. The employees are the of the hipster variety, most likely bugged by obnoxious children but happy to help.
|The Green Onion: Man, this store has a reputation. You hear the mother’s talk at the park, and it is widely known as “The Mean Onion”. Still, their window displays are cute as can be, and have drawn me in. But then I noticed signs directing me to not touch things. Really? In a children’s store don’t touch? As the count would say, “Vatevah.” Put off by that, I left and then noticed months later a sign on the door said, “The Green Onion is under new ownership”. I returned with my son when he wanted a pair of sunglasses. After trying on more than a few pairs (and did I see you rolling your eyes, retail clerk? Isn’t this what one does when choosing a pair of|
sunglasses? You try many pairs, accidentally touch a few lenses and possibly put them back in the wrong place? No? May I remind you that your customers are children?) my boy finally chose the pair he really wanted, and presented them to the clerk. Heartbreakingly, she said to him, “Ummmm you know these are girls sunglasses…riiiiiight…?” Oh no she didn’t. I’ll not be back, and my son righteously rolls his eyes behind his rose-tinted frames (purchased elsewhere) every time we walk past.
|Acorn: This is a little further out of the way for me, but damn this is a sweet store. They have a lot of really organic-feeling toys (not organic as in pesticide-free but organic as in made of wood and other such materials from nature) (but most likely their toys are pesticide-free as well). I had the chance to talk to the owner, Karin, a few times. She is awesome and her employees are helpful every time I go in. My son has received some of his favorite toys from Acorn. If I weren’t so lazy, I’d shop there more often. Possibly Karen should take a note from Loretta’s book and open a store every two blocks. Just a suggestion…|
One more add – my feelings about the stores I shop at are also influenced by how much they put into their community. I may just not know about efforts from some stores, but I do know that Area Emporium and Spa has a standing offer on gifts for teachers at P.S. 58. When you buy a gift certificate, they double the value of it. So if you buy one for $25, they make it for $50. My son’s last two teachers have benefited from this generosity and I’m thinking of getting a job at the school so I can take advantage of this awesome behavior.