When I was a young boy, my toy store was Clayton’s on Elmwood Avenue. Going to Clayton’s with my parents was a magical experience – one that I still vividly remember to this day. I recall standing in front of the glass cases, filled will all sorts of fascinating toys. To leave with a coveted prize… there was nothing else quite like it.
When Clayton’s (since 1916) eventually closed up shop on Elmwood, and moved to Williamsville, I was distraught. Not that I was interested in toys anymore. Rather, it signaled that the city was going downhill, which frightened me. How could a city that I loved so much be losing so much? What would become of Buffalo, as more stores closed, or relocated to the outskirts? Would I even stick around to see the bottom fall out?
Thankfully, the bottom never fell out, although it was pretty darn close. The city was miraculously saved by the diehard people that fought tooth and nail to protect it. The other day, I was talking to a girl from Pittsburgh who told me that she absolutely loved Buffalo because everyone was so upbeat about the city, which she said was its best attribute. I told her it was because we lost half of our population – the people that left weren’t the biggest fans, so what we have remaining is a city filled with residents who are diehard supports and activists. She found that fascinating.
Getting back to the Clayton’s story, eventually Buffalo landed TreeHouse toy store, which also became a Buffalo institution. But as we are all aware, TreeHouse recently closed its doors on Elmwood Avenue, resulting in, once again, a city without a quality toy store.
Clayton’s is the oldest continuously run toy store in America.
It is interesting to note that Clayton’s did attempt an urban comeback in 2015, when they established an outpost at HarborCenter. Unfortunately, that part of Buffalo was not ready for a toy store, although if they had waited a few more years… you never know, with the advent of the children’s museum, the carousel, the Ferris wheel, etc.
Regardless, I am happy to report that Clayton’s has signed up for a second retail location on Hertel Avenue, where they will reportedly open at the former ‘room’ location. ‘room’ is heading across the street, reopening as The Monocle. That move will leave 6000 square feet available, which will be divided into two separate spaces – Clayton’s Toys will occupy 1500 square feet, while the rest is being leased to Monroe MedSpa.
Hearing that Clayton’s will, once again, be open in a dedicated, full-fledge space in North Buffalo… well, it brings back a lot of nostalgic memories of a place that was always mystical and magical. I can’t bear thinking about a Buffalo without a toy store of this nature. Good for Clayton’s to buck the trends of internet shopping. Now, it’s going to be up to us, as a city, to wholeheartedly get behind this legendary Buffalo business, to support them in any way that we can. That means, walking, biking, or driving (away from our computers) to champion a business that has ‘got our back,’ again.
And for all of the children that will actually get a chance to walk into this wondrous setting, as I did when I was a child, I can already see the eyes widening, the smiles turning upwards, and the sounds of laughter as they romp down Hertel Avenue on their way to their next big shopping adventure.