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Toy store adventures for kids & kids-at-heart

The closing of Toys “R” Us in 2018 was greeted in my house with shock and horror—by my then-8-year-old son, that is. We spent countless hours during his young life browsing the aisles of that fading chain store and looking for that perfect play-thing. So the closure hit the dude pretty hard. He was certainly not the only kiddo to feel that way.

But while he was disappointed, my son and his then-4-year-old sister took solace in the fact that Western New York never really needed Toys “R” Us at all. Then, and now, the area is blessed with a number of independent toy stores that boast a startlingly diverse selection and wide appeal for children as well as adult toy collectors. From action figures to dolls, Lego to Playmobil, Melissa and Doug to Paddington Bear, it can all be found locally.

Action Figure Portal

Toy stores that fill the Toys "R" Us void | Buffalo Magazine

Is it for kids or collectors?
With a toy-crazed child in my house, I’m not sure how a local shop with “Action Figure” in its name was not on our radar until recently. Even though many of the items here are for collectors—including lots of horror movie and vintage figures—Star Wars and Marvel-loving kids will find lots to get excited about.

Coolest find
The entire store is filled with them, but our favorites were some early Fisher-Price Imaginext figures and vehicles. The pirate-themed sets date back to the early 2000s, long before my son was born. They’re a unique precursor to the Imaginext toys still on sale today.

How it’s unique
The shop started from one individual’s collection, but three years later continues to grow. Its Facebook page is updated frequently with new items and offers prices that are certainly reasonable for hard-to-find toys. Comic books are also for sale, but it’s the figures that will grab your attention. With such a vast collection, there is something for every child’s taste—as well as the adult toy collector in the family.

Where: 5026 Broadway, Lancaster

Hours: 2:30-7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; noon-5 p.m. Saturday; noon-4 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday.

Bloomsbury Lane Toy Shoppe

Toy stores that fill the Toys "R" Us void | Buffalo Magazine

Is it for kids or collectors?
Bloomsbury Lane is most definitely for little ones rather than collectors and older kids, at that. It was ideal for my 5-year-old daughter.

Coolest find

Perhaps the best ones here are the items that are set up for playing—a Thomas the Tank Engine set, a Calico Critters dollhouse, a Melissa and Doug diner. None are what can be called unique but having them out and available for hands-on play is a nice touch.

How it’s unique
Bloomsbury Lane is positively bursting with toys; there are no unused spaces in this shop. While there are many items that can be found elsewhere, its location—a homey little spot found amidst the Village of Lancaster’s busy shopping district—is essential to its appeal. But remember, as the sign in front states, “Only 2 children allowed in the store unless accompanied by an adult thank you!!”

Where: 1 W. Main St., Lancaster

Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Wednesday; 10 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday; 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday.

Clayton’s Toys

Toy stores that fill the Toys "R" Us void | Buffalo Magazine

Is it for kids or collectors?
Clayton’s Toys is mostly for children, with a large selection of Playmobil toys, lots of dress-up clothes and plenty of Melissa and Doug. The store also has a nice 5&10 section, with some fun, less expensive options.

Coolest find
The store’s back wall is an adorable collection of various stuffed favorites—Curious George, Raggedy Ann and Andy, Corduroy—but my vote for coolest goes to the several Paddington Bears resting comfortably.

How it’s unique
Located on Williamsville’s always-bustling Main Street, Clayton’s is more than 100 years old—a stunning sign of success in the toy world. It’s a quiet, ever-pleasant store that’s especially delightful around the holidays. Clayton’s is also noteworthy for its games, puzzles and picks for babies and toddlers. There’s also a nice clearance section that often features some Playmobil gems.

Where: 5225 Main St., Williamsville

Hours: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Friday; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday.

Raff and Friends

Toy stores that fill the Toys "R" Us void | Buffalo Magazine

Is it for kids or collectors?
As the giant Playmobil displays in front make clear, Raff and Friends is whimsical, fun and decidedly for kids. However, one of those displays features a large Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Collectors, take note!

Coolest find
In the last year, the store expanded its space in the mall and now has an entire room for Playmobil toys. We’re big fans in my household, so we were quite pleased to see this development. It’s a rather stunning collection of sets. While many stores on this list now sell Playmobil figures, none have this selection. I was especially impressed with the World Cup football—excuse me, soccer—sets and figures.

How it’s unique
Its location in the Eastern Hills Mall is just one of the reasons Raff and Friends stands out. A toy store in a mall feels positively old school, in the best sense. While its selection is not dramatically different from other local toy shops, the sheer amount of puzzles and games, stuffed animals, toddler toys and the aforementioned Playmobil sets makes Raff a more than worthy entry on the local scene.

Where: Eastern Hills Mall, Williamsville

Hours: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Saturday; noon-5 p.m. Sunday.

Section 8 Hobbies

Toy stores that fill the Toys "R" Us void | Buffalo Magazine

Is it for kids or collectors?
While there are some kid-friendly items, including a heckuva Lego selection, Section 8 is more for collectors than children. However, as Section 8 owner Justen Hanna puts it, “We are actively trying to bring in more kid- and family-oriented products and programs. We’ve recently brought in a full line of Legos and have made a building area for kids and parents to build and play. And we’ve expanded our tabletop gaming lines and gaming space.” To that end, Monday evenings are now Lego nights, giving kids the chance to work on some builds in-store.

Coolest find
A gobsmackingly large Millennium Falcon plastic model kit from Bandai. It’s 1/72 scale!

How it’s unique
There are fewer hobby shops now than, say, a decade ago, so Section 8 fills a special role. The number of model train and accessories is staggering. Plus, there are Dungeons & Dragons pieces galore. This is the ideal next step for tweens growing out of “toys” and into serious collecting.

Where: 2243 Seneca St., Buffalo

Hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Closed Sunday.

That 80s Toy Shop

Toy stores that fill the Toys "R" Us void | Buffalo Magazine

Is it for kids or collectors?
Can a store equally please kiddos and collectors? If so, That 80s Toy Shop must be the one. The theme is action figures aplenty—Star Wars, Marvel, DC, Ninja Turtles—but there are also Care Bears, Cabbage Patch Kids and even some old Legos. Oh, and a giant Porg.

Coolest find
My son would tell you the most jaw-dropping item here is a 49-inch Jabba the Hutt Sail Barge from “Return of the Jedi.” Released in 2018, it will set you back several hundred dollars. (The store has one on display, and it is indeed impressive.) If you ask me, the coolest toy in That 80s Toy Shop is a David Bowie “Labyrinth” figure. He and I will have to agree to disagree.

How it’s unique
The sheer number of items available makes That 80s Toy Shop stand out. It also features a nice selection of brand-new toys, along with very, very old toys. It’s a sight to behold, truly.

Where: 645 Delaware St., Tonawanda

Hours: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday; 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday; 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday. Closed Sunday and Monday.

The Toy Loft

Toy stores that fill the Toys "R" Us void | Buffalo Magazine

Is it for kids or collectors?
The Toy Loft is one of the most adorable shops on this list, and part of the reason is because it is so clearly for little ones. You’ll see adults there, of course—but they’re buying gifts for children or relatives. Even when busy, the store has a relaxed, cheerful vibe that makes it a Southtown must-visit.

Coolest find
A couple older Lego sets were mixed in among the newer, a special find that delighted my son. While we did not buy them, he was excited by the sight.

How it’s unique
We visited the Toy Loft on Neighborhood Toy Day, and the 20% special made for a packed shop. My daughter and I headed to the small “gazebo” in the center, and she happily played while adults and kids buzzed around. Our experience in that gazebo sums up the Toy Loft to some degree—it’s a charming little spot tucked into busy East Aurora. Best of all for moms and dads, 42 North Brewing Company is just one block away...

Where: 719 Main St., East Aurora

Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Closed Sunday.

The TreeHouse Toy Store

Toy stores that fill the Toys "R" Us void | Buffalo Magazine

Is it for kids or collectors?
The TreeHouse is clearly for the young ones, rather than collectors. It’s also ideal for Buffalonians seeking a unique gift in a unique location—the heart of Elmwood Village.

Coolest find
The store is positively bursting with items and seems to grow larger the further one walks. The Anglophile in me says the best find was a plastic cricket bat. Cool, and unexpected.

How it’s unique
It’s the little touches that make the TreeHouse special—the fish tank by the register, the baskets hanging from the ceiling, the camping-themed window display, the painted A-B-C on the outside wall. We happened to stop by on Neighborhood Toy Store Day in November, and friendly employees were handing out caramel corn. See what I mean? All nice touches. While families in the suburbs have many toy-shopping options, a visit to the TreeHouse deserves to be in the regular rotation.

Where: 793 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo

Hours: 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Friday; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday; noon-4 p.m. Sunday.

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