Tildie’s Toy Box is celebrating one year on East Passyunk with a fun event featuring Crazy Aaron, the founder and inventor of Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty. We spoke with Michelle Gillen-Doobrajh about owning a toy store, running a business in Philadelphia and parenthood.
We will be giving away Tildie’s Toy Box backpacks filled with prizes to the first 50 people to purchase a large tin of putty. We will also be handing out a limited number of Tildie’s Tickets redeemable at local restaurants for a birthday treat! For the latest information please visit our website.
What have been some of the most popular items?
Some of our best sellers include the Oombee Cube from Fat Brain Toys, Tegu magnetic wooden blocks, and of course Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty!
What has been the most rewarding part of owning a toy store?
I have really come to appreciate the community so much more than I already did before opening the store. Parents, grandparents, aunts & uncles, kids, visitors, and area business owners have all been so welcoming and so appreciative of having us on the avenue. It is wonderful to have people from a variety of demographics appreciate our mission of promoting play with gender neutral toys. I have made so many new friends over the past year and seen many kids grow. It is truly amazing and inspiring.
As a parent, how do your kids like that ‘mom and dad’ own a toy store?
When we first opened, there was a lot of adjusting for everyone. Now that we are (mostly) in a routine, I think they enjoy being a part of this journey. They love to come in and check out the new products. They consider this their store and they already have a sense of pride in having this establishment and place in the community. They even like to play “store” at home! And of course they love testing out all the brand new toys (as do I)!
Being as gender-neutral as possible, why is this important to you as a parent and business owner?
We strongly believe that children need the freedom and downtime for playing. Providing children with an environment rich with learning opportunities is so crucial to child development and we know that children do their best learning while playing. Giving them the freedom to choose if they want to play with a truck, building blocks, a play kitchen, a doll, etc. without the influence of gender stereotypes allows them to develop a wide range of life skills, at their own pace, that all children need regardless of gender. We do our best to choose products that appeal to everyone with packages that don’t suggest they are only for girls or boys. As a parent, teaching our girls that they can do or be anything is important. As a business owner, we strive to make it easy for the community to choose toys everyone can enjoy.
It feels great to make it to the 1-year mark. We have come a long way and learned a lot in a short time. We are excited to have met many like-minded individuals and keep growing in the future. I think the best advice I could give to someone starting a small business is to make sure you stay true to what you are trying to do, and never forget why you ventured on this journey in the first place. It is an extremely stressful, time consuming, and life changing experience and having a strong support system will be important to get through it. I have been very lucky to have my husband, our kids, my mother and sister, and close friends to support me over the past year. Also, you will have to become a Jack of all trades and a quick problem solver. But if you believe in it, and are ready to work, it’s so worth it!
Tildie’s Toy Box 1st Birthday Party
Sunday July 16th
1829 East Passyunk Avenue