Toys “R” Us may be closing forever, but that doesn’t mean you have to grow up. Just look local. Whether you live in the city, Northtowns, or Southtowns, there’s a neighborhood toy store that channels childhood magic…arguably much better than the large big box store experience ever could.
793 Elmwood Ave.
In the middle of Elmwood Village, the TreeHouse stocks toys that inspire imagination and creativity. Think dolls and dollhouses, including Calico Critters; building toys like Magna-Tiles and Lego; science kits, hard-to-find games and puzzles; and a thoughtful selection of baby and toddler development toys. Packed with offerings from floor-to-ceiling, the store also has dozens of fun buckets filled with small old-fashioned toys (like bouncy balls and rubber dinosaurs) at the register, plus an aquarium mounted at the perfect eye level for toddlers.
Fun fact: The store offers “TreeHouse Take-Out” where you can order online by 2 p.m. and pick-up by 4. Plus there’s free gift wrapping.
The Toy Loft
719 Main St., East Aurora
I’m always amazed by how much The Toy Loft can pack into its long, narrow space located in the heart of East Aurora’s shopping district. The store is always right on top of the latest hot thing (Fidget spinners, Pop Sockets, Squishies), but it’s also jam-packed with creative and unique toys for kids of all ages. There are picture and activity books; shelves full of award-winning games and puzzles; cute, affordable (and age-appropriate) jewelry and accessories for girls; and lots of quality art kits and supplies.
Fun fact: Every year the store sponsors a Lego-building contest for local kids; entries become the store’s window display.
5225 Main Street, Williamsville
The grand dame of locally-owned toy stores, Clayton’s is the largest on this list, but with a similar focus: toys that spark imaginations. Highlights include Brio trains and toys; classic china dolls; and hard-to-find toys from past generations like Sea Monkeys, Spirograph, the Fisher-Price record player and Gund bears (remember Gotta get a Gund?).
Fun fact: Clayton’s has existed in Buffalo for over 100 years.
Bloomsbury Lane Toy Shoppe
1 West Maine Street, Lancaster
Like all the stores on our list, Bloomsbury is also video-game free, with toys meant to prompt free, imaginative play. Wood toys by Melissa and Doug, Playmobil, train and building sets, plush toys and dolls are all part of the offering, located right in the village of Lancaster.
Fun fact: The store offers a birthday registry (no more guessing!) and all items purchased from the list are discounted by 10 percent.