Toyology owner and chief Toyologist, Aric Klar takes play very seriously, starting a toy store inside his parent’s drug store as a boy. Fast forward twenty years and now there are four locations and a thriving online business.
Photography by Jerry Zolynsky
For any 12-year-old, being let loose in a toy store is a dream come true. But for Aric Klar, the fantasy was even bigger because his parents let him own one. Owners of the former Warren Prescriptions in Farmington Hills, Aric’s parents gave him and his 10-year-old brother Jonathon the opportunity to set up their own toy store inside of the pharmacy 20 years ago, and the rest is toy magic history.
“Make no mistake about it — my mom, Nori, was overseer of the whole project but she did give my brother and me the biggest break ever by encouraging us to start our own toy store in a 4-foot section of the pharmacy,” said Klar, now 28. “My parents allowed us $10,000 to set up shop by hand-picking the most fun boys’ and girls’ toys we could buy. At the time I didn’t realize it, but it was the greatest lesson in having a business you are passionate about and making it work — and I learned it at such an early age.”
School, on the other hand, wasn’t so easy for Klar. “I wasn’t a good student and I had issues in school, but my parents stayed positive and always encouraged me. Their favorite saying was ‘In time you will climb’ and I managed to keep climbing,” he said. Once in college, a professor in a business class was so impressed with the passion and creativity of Aric’s business plan for a toy store that he suggested he make the plan a reality. He did just that. Jump forward to 2011— their bigger toy store, Toyology in West Bloomfield, was founded by mother and sons. Next came the addition of stores in Howell, Royal Oak and their newest location in Rochester Hills.
The Toyology Difference
If you’re an independent toy store going up against Toys “R” Us, Walmart and the big box stores of the world, how can you compete? The challenge may seem daunting, yet, according to the American Specialty Toy Retailers Association, approximately 2,500 independent toy stores across the country, like Toyology, manage to thrive.
“Parents and their kids come to Toyology for an experience they can’t get anywhere else,” said chief toyologist Aric. “Walking through our store, you won’t find static shelves lined with bland boxes. Instead, you’ll see a boy riding around on a scooter pretending he’s on a rocket ship or a mom praising her little girl when she builds a block tower that’s taller than she is. Toys are out of boxes and in the hands of kids, where they can feel the textures of real materials not just imagine them through a photograph.”
The makings of a great independent toy store are based on one main thing, according to Klar. As a young father of an 18-month-old son, he sees it more clearly than ever: “The whole culture at Toyology focuses on education through play. Each product is hand-selected to enrich and develop life skills while kids are still having fun. I’ve seen amazing learning going on with my son when he plays with stimulating toys like his current favorite, the Start Up Circuit set with interchangeable pieces.”
Toy Trend Setters
From meeting with local toymakers to attending global trend and toy conferences, Klar’s goal is to stock his shelves (and online store) with products you can’t find at big-box retailers. “We’ve always been industry leaders by getting ahead of the toy trends and crazes that hit, like the recent fidget spinners and cubes, and also manufacturing our own innovative private label toys,” Klar said. “Mattel just flew me and only seven other toy retailers out to their headquarters to discuss upcoming trends and a lecture circuit that I am participating in.”
The future looks bright for Toyology and expansion is on the horizon. The Klar family foresees having more stores in Michigan and out of state as well. “Reinvesting in our local Metro Detroit area is important to us, whether it’s opening new locations here or expanding our reach into community schools,” Klar said. “The toy industry will always thrive because there will always be kids turning 2 and parents who want to entertain and educate them — and that’s what we want to do best. “Down the road, I can’t wait to give my own son the same opportunity my parents gave me to start something himself or to join our team. He’ll be turning 2 soon, so I guess I have to wait a few years before I make him any offers,” he said with a smile.
Toyology Toy Stores
6389 Orchard Lake Road
119 S. Main St.
109 W. Grand River Ave.
208 N. Adams Road