Bidding adieu to any shop in town is never easy and the departure of our only toy store is a tough loss.
By Janice Llanes Fabry
Bidding adieu to any shop in town is never easy and the departure of our only toy store is a tough loss. Fortunately, Learning Express’ fun and games aren’t over. It is reopening at the Rye Ridge Plaza on July 31 and will celebrate all weekend long with Elmo, free giveaways, and 20 percent off all toys storewide.
“We’re just moving a mile and a half down the street into a bigger and better store for a bigger and better shopping experience,” reassured owner Jim Myers. “We love our Rye customers and we want to maintain our presence here for many years to come.”
Since the store opened in 2009, Learning Express has been the one-stop-shop for toys, from newborns to tweens. The product knowledge of the staff, most of whom have been there from the beginning, is second to none. Services such as free personalization and gift-wrapping are a convenience that customers won’t find at Toys ‘R’ Us, Walmart, or on the Internet.
As Myers noted, “A store like ours is a pop-in, pick up a quick birthday gift, wrap it, and go off to a children’s party the same day. We’re hoping that not having to hunt for a parking spot will improve the convenience angle for our customers.”
The new space will continue to carry toys and games that aren’t necessarily mainstream, as well as the hottest toys, like today’s Shopkins collectibles and selfie sticks. Myers will also keep the same Learning Express format to which customers have become accustomed.
An Active Zone is chock-full of outdoor activities that kids can’t put down come summertime. Egg crate gardening kits supply kids with all they need to grow flowers or enough herbs for their own pizzas. Pool toys that obliterate the squirt guns of yesteryear are the powerful Eliminators and Masterblasters. The store’s waterproof deck of cards is a slam-dunk, too.
An Arts and Crafts section offers innovative and award-winning merchandise that include Alex Brands, Creativity for Kids, Orb Factory, Melissa and Doug, and Plush Craft pillows. If building is more a kid’s speed, the Construction aisle boasts a huge selection of up-to-the-minute Leggo kits. This year, Learning Express is also celebrating the 100th anniversary of those timeless Lincoln Logs.
Speaking of throwbacks, the shop carries all the old favorites as well. Pokemon is as strong now as it was in the 1980s and Rubik’s Cube has not lost its edge. While lava lamps and Spyrograph design sets are still popular, jump ropes and iconic hoola hoops are still taking kids for a spin.
As far as board games, customers gravitate to the classics, like Operation, Battleship, and Trouble, as much as they do the visual Spot It, the bendy Perplexus, and the strategic NFL Game Day.
Learning Express will remain a family affair. While Jim is always in the building, wife Cristi works behind the scenes and handles all the merchandising and advertising. The Myers kids have grown old enough to get into the act as well. Annie, 21, Maddie, 15, and Jillian, 13, are all sales personnel. Olivia, 20, helps her dad with the ordering and accompanies him to the Learning Center Convention in San Antonio, where they choose the best toys for the holiday season.
The Myers hope to see their beloved Rye customers at the new store; after all, Learning Express’ next stop is right around the corner.