Boro Park Snapshot: Toys4U
A bright red fire truck with flashing lights and sirens says Heshy Rubinstein of BoroPark24 was his favorite toy growing up in Williamsburg during the 1960s.
As the years have gone on, styles and preferences have changed but all around, cars and trucks have remained top toys that are desired by children.
At Toys4U, there is no shortage of cars, trucks, and emergency vehicles for kids to choose from.
With options like a Hatzolah ambulance, an FDNY fire truck, and a Shomrim patrol car, the young customers of Toys4U can find toy vehicles which are miniature of what they see everyday on the street.
This is all made possible because the owner of Toys4U, Yossi Itzkowitz, works night and day to find toys that the frum market in Boro Park and beyond will like but also because he has contracts with factories in China to make and design his own toys.
These toys designed by Itzkowitz do not stop at Hatzolah ambulances. There are entire sets of Yiddish toys and games including items like a toy Shabbos set and Playmags with the Alef Beis.
The freedom to create the story for themselves is something that is incredibly popular among children these days. As building block toys like Legos reign supreme in secular circles, Mr. Itzkowitz says that the frum children’s toy market prefers toys like Playmobil where children can play and make up their own stories for hours on end.
In fact, Mr. Itzkowitz says that his own children prefer Playmobil over almost any other toy.
As he sells toys in Williamsburg, Boro Park, Monsey, Lakewood, as well as wholesale markets, Mr. Itzkowitz is privy to the ever changing consumer habits of the frum consumer.
Mr. Itzkowitz’s father Reb Shloime came into the toy business all the way back in 1972 when he bought Zipper Hospital where the aforementioned bright red fire truck was bought for Mr. Rubinstein as a young boy. Eventually Zipper Hospital became Itzkowitz’s Toy Store which in turn became Toys4U.
The first Boro Park location of Toys4U opened a decade ago in 2010 at 45th Street and 13th Avenue, later moving a couple blocks south to 47th Street where the store now has two floors with thousands of toys.
A few years ago, recognizing the need to grow yet again, Mr. Itzkowitz purchased Tree House, a toy store on 16th Avenue.
While on a normal day this location on 13th Avenue is bustling, full of people of all ages looking for and buying toys, throughout the coronavirus pandemic the store was forced to shut its doors.
Despite the government enforced closure, Mr. Itzkowitz explained how they made a shift almost overnight to a web and phone based ordering system. As other businesses were forced to layoff employees, he actually ended up adding approximately forty additional temporary staff.
As Pesach is usually the second biggest season to buy toys (after Chanuka) and as they were suffering from staff being sick with the virus, this adjustment to a new system ended up being of great service to the community.
Stuck home, many children did not have enough to do each day so many parents relied on Toys4U as the local toy store to fill the void.
Toys for many children are a source of relief and pleasure that distract them from the world that surrounds them.
For many kids who are suffering, Toys4U has been there in their hour of need giving them toys and games free of charge to play with as they face a loss or as they await their next treatment.
In one instance, there was a family who came from Eretz Yisroel as one of the family members needed treatment in New York. Recognizing that the family was drastically short on funds and that the children were depressed in New York, they called up Mr. Itzkowitz and asked him if he would be able to spare any toys. Immediately, Mr. Itzkowitz sent them a large selection of toys to make things a little easier.
In another case, there was a family who had lost a parent to an unspeakable tragedy. Again recognizing that the kids who had just lost a parent could use a distraction, he made sure to book them an appointment to come into the store when there would be no-one else there so they could pick whatever toys they wanted with full dignity.
Of course, every year Chanuka time, many special needs children from organizations like Bein Ish Ubein Uchiv come to the store at a special, appointed hour when there will be no one else there to have their pick of toys from the store. This is a highlight for the dozens of children who receive the toys and gain simcha from them the whole year.
Giving toys to children is far from the only chesed that Toys4U does - they frequently give large gift certificates to local organizations who are running auctions and raffles.
Organizations like Mekimi, Hatzolah, and RCCS among others get a large gift card every year for their chinese auctions.
You can visit Toys4U at 4714 13th Avenue anytime Sunday through Thursday from 10:30 am until 7:30 pm or on Friday between 10:30 am - 2:00 pm.