Holiday shoppers supporting local toy stores

ST. JOSEPH, Mich. -- With 11 days until Christmas, shoppers made the rounds in downtown St. Joe, with two popular stops being the toy stores located just a block from each other on State Street.

Oh My Darlings, across from Forever Books, opened up around six years ago, and features a wide variety of clothes, toys and puzzles for young children.

And just down the street is downtown institution The Toy Company, which celebrated its 35th year in business.

"This is a regular stop for me around the Christmas season," said shopper Kris Collins.

Some shoppers came from over an hour away to check out the gifts on offer.

Tina Van Heuvelen, who visited from Holland, Michigan, told me their downtown toy store closed a few years ago. She came to The Toy Company to find something special for her grandchildren.

Van Heuvelen said, "I'm looking for something unique that I haven't found in any of the other stores."

Collins also came in looking for something special.

"There's a lot of creative choices," she said. "I've been coming here for years for my kids and other kids on our gift list, and I've always found something I like."

From puzzles, board games, stuffed animals and other items, the toy stores in town strive to keep the kind of stock not found at most big box stores.

"I know I can come here and find something that I'm not going to find anywhere else," said Van Heuvelen.

Collins added, "There's always puzzles to choose from, some of the name brands, the games. They're always willing to show me, like 'hey, this is the latest game, this is how you play it.' Every year we find the next game we want for our family."

Owner Andy Vescolani, who took over the shop from his parents when they retired, said that kind of personal experience is something that sets local shops apart.

"That's one of the areas that we focus on," Velasconi said. "Because not everyone knows what's good for a two-year-old girl or an eight-year-old boy. They might not have even met them before in their lives! So it's nice to be able to cater to every individual, depending on their interests. We like to offer that personalized shopping experience."

"It's just a great place," said Collins. "It's a lot of fun and it's a great place to come in and bring your kids and keep them entertained when you're shopping."

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