Why Specialty?

Our society is built on a history where communities were small and close-knit. The relationship between a business and its clientele was direct and personal. However, as communities grow and families become more spread out, businesses grew as well. Massive fulfillment centers, express shipping, and internet purchasing allow families to send gifts from afar, and cater to the specific needs and interests of unique children.

With corner-stores evolving into corporations, our communities face a loss that goes beyond the simple pleasure of a personal touch in our every-day errands. Surveys have proven that significantly higher percentages of each dollar spent at a locally-owned business remain within the local economy, and non-profit organizations receive exponentially more support from small businesses in their area than corporations run from outside it.

Furthermore, smaller businesses invest in hiring employees with greater expertise in terms of their particular products, services, and unique clientele in order to provide a much higher standard of customer service.

This kind of diversification is easy to see in all arenas; nationally recognized brand names fill the shelves of every business. Certainly, there are many necessities of modern life that are facilitated by the expanded selection and expediency that large businesses have provided. Other things, however, have begun to fall through the cracks. Notably, customer service and community awareness are severely hampered by businesses whose inventory, policies, and schedules are dictated from an outside, central source. Communities are unique, and thusly the businesses within a community should be unique.

As members of the toy industry, we belong to the ranks of parents, educators, and caregivers of all kinds insofar as our business is ultimately the well-being and healthy development of children. The economic environment in our country is highly competitive. Despite the fact that lower prices and fast-paced trends govern much of what is produced and marketed, the specialty toy industry strives to maintain an attentive, local focus, the nation over. We take pride in being able to assist our customers in finding the best possible products to suit their families.

What is a "specialty" toy store and how are your toys all that different?

Because we know a child plays at our table, we take great care and give much thought in selecting only the most wholesome playthings. We believe a toy should engage a child in constructive play and so we shy away from toys that promote violence and destructive behavior. We believe the child, not the toy, should be in charge and prefer playthings that are primarily powered by the child's imagination. We know that a plaything is only as good as the time it holds a child's interest. It takes more than "eye appeal" to find a place on our shelves. It takes more than "educational merit". A toy to be worthy of our shelves must past the "kid test". To be of ultimate benefit and educational value, playthings should entertain, engage, and expand the child.

—Nancy Stanek, ASTRA board member.

Children have a natural curiosity, creativity, and eagerness to learn about the world around them. In recognition of these facts, specialty stores stock rich selections of toys, games, and kits which stimulate the whole child. Our products are educational, enriching, and high quality in order to foster an appreciation of value.

From birth upward, the tools that we provide our children are the same tools that they will take into their adult lives, into your community and beyond. Make sure those tools are enduring examples of care, patience, tolerance, creativity, and joy… seeds you plant with love and support for all of the children in your life.

While passing trends and fads fade as soon as the next "hot item" hits the TV screen, the locally-owned businesses in your community will continue to provide expert service and lasting quality that will contribute to your family, home, and community for a lifetime. What distinguishes independents?

We are knowledgeable about toys, but more importantly about the children that use them. We select product not on the basis of hype and advertising, but on intrinsic play value. In short, we are toy-savvy and kid-wise!

—Nancy Stanek

The investments that we make in our children are absolutely the most valuable investments we will ever make.