BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — After 67 years of doing business in the community, co-owners Fred and Patty Meyer have decided to call it quits and close Meyer's Toy World by the end of October.
The store, which was started by Fred's parents in 1947, has been at its current location at 72 North Ave. in Battle Creek since 1955.
“We started looking seriously at retiring about a year and a half ago and I promised my wife I’d pull the trigger by the time I was 68," Fred said, who celebrates his birthday next month.
The sales signs have since gone up, right along with business in the past few weeks once word of the store's closing got around town.
But both Fred and Patty agree now is just the right time.
“I’m kind of glad on one note it’s ending with us and yet I’m sad that it’s not continuing on for the community," Fred said.
"I guess I didn’t realize the love from the community, it’s just been phenomenal.”
On a wall tucked in a back corner of the store are dozens of black-and-white pictures showcasing the store's colorful and storied past, from when the Meyer's opened up downtown, to when Fred's dad used to dress up as Santa Claus during Christmastime at the store.
“Yeah and then I came back in ’74," Fred said as he pointed to a picture of him with seemingly longer hair from decades ago.
When asked about their staying power in the community after so many years, both Fred and Patty responded: adaptability.
Having gone from solely a toy store to expanding to selling baby and nursery furniture in the 1980s to compete with the new rival in town, Toys 'R' Us, to more recently beginning to sell motorsports items like scooters beginning in 2006.
“We’ve changed, we’ve gone through a lot of trends, and we’ve been willing to make changes," Patty Meyer said, also acknowledging all of the toy trends they've seen come and go from Cabbage Patch dolls in the 80s to the Beanie Babies craze in the 90s.
Ironically, Meyer's Toy World managed to outlast the Toys 'R' Us which went under back in 2006.
For longtime customers like Kathy Boldt, the store has turned toy shopping into a family tradition, a place where she bought her first doll and her mother bought her first doll decades before.
“I came down here and got my first doll when my sister was going to be born, and I still have it and the pink trunk it came in and all the clothes," she said. "It's been here forever, it’s just been a staple.”
Meyer says they've already managed to clear out roughly 70 percent of their merchandise in just the first week of the store closing sale. The couple had planned to stay open until Thanksgiving but now they don't expect to have enough inventory to get them past mid-October.
It's a good problem to have, as the merchandise quickly disappears, the Meyer's hold onto the memories they've created along the way.
“We have developed so many friendships with customers and people that we’re just not going to see all the time, so that will be the tough part," Patty said.
Fred adding that selling toys for a living admittedly makes day-to-day work more enjoyable than most jobs.
“I just feel so blessed to have had a job that I really enjoy going to work to everyday," he said.