After 40 years on State Line Road, U.S. Toy is relocating business operations from its longtime home in Leawood.
The new space at 119th Street and Metcalf Avenue was formerly an OfficeMax, FurnitureMax and CopyMax. Company staff is on track to complete the move and open the new, 37,000-square-foot retail store in May.
Seth Freiden, chief executive officer and majority owner of U.S. Toy, said the move was mostly motivated by efforts to compete “in the world of Amazon,” where retail stores are losing sales as consumers switch to online shopping.
“We were seeing the same sales decline with our flagship store…that we’ve seen at the other stores, so we have to do something to reinvent that store,” Freiden said. “We started talking about how can we ‘Amazon-proof’ our stores.”
One “Amazon-proof” mechanism is to offer what Amazon does not: A physical gathering space. So, Freiden purchased the Pump It Up located at 7230 W. Frontage Road in Shawnee. That children’s amusement center franchise closes in May, after which he will relocate it to inside the new retail store.
‘The tip of the iceberg’
The company’s business has gone increasingly digital — including catalog and business-to-business operations — so Freiden and company leaders decided to take the company in a new direction.
“Most people, when they see that retail store on State Line — they know it’s big — they think it’s our entire operation,” Freiden said. “I always tell people it’s the tip of the iceberg.”
He’s also hiring new staff to run Pump It Up at the new space, enough to keep it open weekdays.
Another section of the new store will also be devoted to the U.S. Toy Magic and Costume shop. U.S. Toy also plans to add birthday registries as well as Belfonte ice cream and popcorn shops.
Freiden, who is the third generation in the family-owned company, said they saw retail sales decline by 8 to 10 percent each year for several years. Besides that, the 42,000-square-foot retail store at 2008 W. 103rd Terrace had major flooding issues from Indian Creek in summer 2017. Freiden also wanted to improve the store’s parking and visibility options.
By 2017, company leaders also decided that they would no longer support five other retail stores across the country. U.S. Toy still retains a second store located in Plano, Texas.
U.S. Toy will also continue to cater to teachers with daily discounts as well as expansion of lamination services. And in the meantime, the company is offering 25 percent discount at the current location, 2008 W. 103rd Terrace in Leawood.
Company headquarters remain in Grandview, Missouri, with a 600,000-square-foot warehouse on 63 acres.
“It’s unique to be where we are in the third-generation; most businesses don’t make it for a whole host of reasons,” Freiden said. “We’re the purple unicorn…Amazon changed the world so we have to constantly change and be adapted to that. While I’m very appreciative of my uncle and my grandmother and my grandfather, who started the company, we’re looking forward to the future.”