I remember the first time I met Peggy and Becky Sebert, of Becky & Me Toys, and thinking how sweet to name a toy store after your daughter and be able to work together. To also share your business with your father and husband is even more special. I do admit a bit of jealousy because my daughter is grown and living in a different city. When you run into the two of them at ASTRA Marketplace or other shows, you can’t help but smile.
How did your family first enter the toy industry?
In 1995, a local toy store was looking for a teacher to manage the store and develop a children’s book department. On a whim, I applied for and accepted the position. Within a couple of days, I was running the store as if it were my own. Becky, my daughter, who was in middle school at the time, would come help after school. She was paid in Beanie Babies because she was too young to really work. We were hooked on the toy industry and the power of play, and the rest is history. We opened our own store, Becky & Me Toys, in 2002.
Who has been involved and who is involved now?
Our whole family has been and continues to be involved. Retail was in my blood as I used to spend time in my father’s independent pharmacy growing up. When we opened our toy store, my dad helped us price merchandise and shared his tricks of the trade. He actually just liked being around, as I did as a child in his stores. So, it’s come full circle.
Becky and I do all the planning and ordering together. We meticulously curate our product mix by playing with every toy and reading every book that appears on our shelves. My husband, Ron, does our bookkeeping. One or more of the three of us is generally at the store during business hours.
Do you think the next generation will get involved with Becky & Me Toys?
Right now, every generation is involved. We’ll have to see how the future plays out.
How has business changed over the years?
It’s a whole new world. When I began, the independent specialty toy store was where you came to find and buy unique toys. Now, it is harder to find items that customers can’t find everywhere. The internet has changed the way people shop. Customers know they can get exactly what they want when they want it, and are more closed-minded about options. Our expertise in the field of toys and child development (we are all former or current educators) is not valued by as many customers as it used to be because they look instead to mommy bloggers or online reviews of products. With the increase in technology, we find that many customers believe that their child has outgrown toys by the age of 8. We try consistently to spread the message that toys, games, crafts, and other “real play” are imperative for kids of all ages. You’re never too old to play.
One thing that hasn’t changed is our passion for toys, for our store, and for spreading the importance of play. We have games and toys out on play tables for children to play with and we’re always ready to demo/play a game with our customers.
Another thing that has stayed constant are the positive relationships that are built between us, as store owners, and manufacturers and other store owners across the country. Going to Toy Fair and ASTRA are highlights of our year because of the opportunities to see and network with so many friends in the industry.
What advice do you have for others thinking of joining the family business?
We hear all the time, “it must be so much fun to have a toy store!” It is fun but it’s also a tremendous amount of work. Be ready to put your whole heart into it. It’s a huge commitment. Make sure you can work well together and have the same goals. The business becomes a member of your family. It takes love, nurturing, time, commitment, passion, and fun.