Snapshot: Toys 2 Discover Stresses Torah Values
By David J. Glenn
When Yonason Schwartz started Toys 2 Discover 17 years ago, he didn't think he'd eventually have three other stores spanning Williamsburg, Lakewood, and Monroe—he was just concentrating on having the 18th Avenue location successfully adhere to Torah values and be kid-friendly.
To do that, he founded several companies to manufacture on his own about two-thirds of his inventory—everything from "Magna Shapes" building blocks, to children's books, to scooters, to 1,000-piece puzzles. "You have to have a lot of patience to do those," he said.
By using his own companies, Schwartz is able to have control over the type and quality of the toys filling his shelves. He can offer tznius dolls, figures of frum people, Yiddish and Yiddish-English books and games on Shabbos, Yomim Tovim, brachos, and more.
He can also decide what not to sell. " I won't stock toy guns or violent games," he said. "Kids don't need that."
Schwartz instead focuses on items like his own Kindervelt miniature figures (which he distributes elsewhere as well). The plastic models include the rebbe, tatty, mammy, bubby, and religiously dressed people "who could be whoever the child wants," he said.
Schwartz also is able to sell his products at huge discounts, since he doesn't have to factor in the higher prices demanded by big-name labels. "This," he said, pointing to one of the strollers he offers, "would be $100 if it were name-brand. When manufactured under my label, it's $39."
"A lot of families are struggling financially," he said. "Here, they don't have to spend a fortune on Chanukah presents."
The store is gearing up for the holiday. Schwartz said the Chanukah catalog, near completion, will feature many of the 100 toys new to the market this year, as well as time-tested favorites.
The toy entrepreneur plans to open two more stores within the next few months. He's not yet saying where.
Schwartz recalled that when the store on 18th Avenue was under a different name and up for sale in 2005, "my wife pushed me to buy it."
She didn't have to push very hard.
"I like toys," he said, and he enjoys picking them out for his own children.
"I'm just a kid at heart," Schwartz said.
Who better to own a toy store?