No games for toy store owners when it comes to knowledge
Owner, Elizabeth Berwanger helps customer, Rickie Cooley choose a game for one of her grandchildren. | Jackie Pilossoph~for Sun-Times Media
Village Toy Shop
807 Elm St.
Updated: February 19, 2013 9:05AM
NORTHFIELD — Ask Pat Berwanger what she loves about being in the toy business and she’ll tell you, hands down, it’s the customers.
“They’re happy and cheery,” said Berwanger, who with her daughter, Elizabeth, owns and manages Village Toy Shop on Elm Street.
Pat began working part time at Village Toy Shop in 1982. Three years later, the owner became ill and had plans to close the shop, so with the financial help of her father-in-law, Pat and another employee, Peggy Lane bought the business.
Elizabeth was in high-school at the time, and began working in the store on weekends. She then attended Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and graduate school at the Chicago Art Institute, but continued to work at the store every summer. When Lane died in 1994, Elizabeth came back to help her mom. The gesture turned into a full-time job.
“It’s a fantastic store in a wonderful area,” said Elizabeth, who lives in Northfield. “I get to order wonderful toys, the customers are really, really great, and of course, I love working with my mom.”
Village Toy Shop, which has been in the same location for 65 years, with four different owners, sells “a little bit of everything,” according to Elizabeth.
With merchandise for newborns through age 12, the store carries baby toys, crafts, puzzles, games, Legos, dolls, trains, science and art projects, stuffed animals, doll houses and hundreds of party favors.
Marilynn Greable is Pat’s friend and neighbor in Winnetka, who has worked at the store since 1992.
“I started coming here as a customer in 1976 when my daughter was born, and I’ve just always loved this store,” she said, “When my kids got older, Pat said, ‘Do you want to work with us?’ and it took me about two seconds to say yes.”
Greable said her favorite part of her job is the kids.
“Knowing how much the little kids love the toys, and how excited they’re going to be when they get it, especially when you know they’ve been asking for it is a wonderful feeling,” she said.
When asked how her store compares to larger toy stores, Elizabeth said they offer the personal attention and customer service you can’t get in a bigger store.
“The prices are exactly the same,” she said, “But here, you get free gift wrapping, a hassle free return policy, and help and expertise.”
“My grandchildren live far away and I’m always sending them gifts,” said Rickie Cooley of Winnetka, “I come in and ask, ‘What is a good thing for a six year old or a ten year old?’ and they always have an answer for me. They always have a good idea that I wouldn’t have thought of.”
“You go into a Toys R Us and no one is there to offer suggestions,” said Nicole Hayek of Glencoe, “Here they are very good at providing suggestions for the sex and age you are buying for.”
“Our customers trust us to pick out the right thing,” said Pat, “That’s a great feeling.”