At The Toy Place, Paul and Brenda Allegrezza celebrate the power of play.
Allegrezza said that’s the business’ tagline because it is important for children to use their imagination.
His wife agreed and said many of the toys they offer at the new Tyler store help children learn numbers, letters, colors, sequencing and other skills.
The Ezy Roller, a kind of combination between a bike and scooter, is Allegrezza’s favorite toy, as well as the Kinetic Sand and Magna-Tiles, some of their hottest items.
“The kids enjoy them,” he said. “They represent the company in play value.”
Magna-Tiles are 3D magnetic building tiles while Kinetic Sand is made of 99 percent sand and 1 percent organic matter so it never dries out and is safe, even when ingested, Allegrezza said.
When Melinda Nguyen, 8, walked in to The Toy Place on Tuesday, she looked around before settling on making a decorative structure with Magna-Tiles.
“She loves building things,” Mary Poarch, a family friend who keeps Miss Nguyen four days a week in the summer, said.
Ms. Poarch, whose grandchildren live out of the country, said she and Miss Nguyen, whose grandparents don’t live here, have kind of adopted each other. They have spent most of the summer studying and decided to spend the last week having some fun.
“I saw the sign, and I thought, ‘We’ll check it out,’” Ms. Poarch said of The Toy Place. “I can hardly wait to look at everything.”
Allegrezza said they try to make the store a whimsical place that will create lasting memories for the children and the parents.
“Our goal is for this to be their toy store,” Mrs. Allegrezza said.
They encourage children to interact and try out demo toys in the store, and parents have a tendency to watch their kids and see what they engage with, Allegrezza said. “It sparks imagination” in the kids, he added.
Allegrezza said they look for “fun, unique products high in quality and play value.”
The Hop & Squeak Pogo Jumper is another best seller and teaches toddlers how to jump, Mrs. Allegrezza said, adding that doctors have even sent parents to the business to get one for their children.
They have educational, outdoor, baby and retro toys, such as the Spirograph and Etch A Sketch. They have science toys like the Gold Rush Panning Kit and the Glow in the Dark Lab Kit. They have Royal Princess play houses and Victorian Dollhouses, as well as camouflage tents and John Deer tractors, puzzles and stuffed animals.
He said they are always looking to add new things to the store. They offer birthday registries and complimentary gift wrap.
Allegrezza’s favorite part of the business is watching the children interact with the toys and seeing “the joy when they come up to the counter with something they picked out,” he said.
Mrs. Allegrezza said she enjoys seeing the kids get so excited.
“I love to see that light bulb go off,” she added.
On Saturday, they held a grand opening event, where kids got to meet Elsa and Olaf from “Frozen.”
“We wanted to be more a part of the community,” she said of why they moved the 40-year-old business to Tyler.
The couple has been married for 22 years and has three sons, a daughter and two grandchildren. The family lives on a farm between Longview and Tyler, where they have cows, chickens, horses, dogs and cats.
Allegrezza worked as a supply chain analyst for Hewlett Packard before it “got to the point where we wanted to work together as a family and have a small business,” he said.
They bought the business, which originally started 40 years ago as The Knowledge Nook in Longview, 10 years ago. Mrs. Allegrezza said education is important to them so the business was a good fit.
They have since transformed the educational supplies business into a toy store. They closed the business in Longview on June 30 and re-opened it in the Broadway Market Center in Tyler on Aug. 1.
Their oldest son, Dylan, 21, works regularly at the store.
“Our vision was to be a family business,” Mrs. Allegrezza said adding that they want their children to learn the business so they can take it over one day.
“It really has been fantastic,” Allegrezza said of the response to the store in Tyler. “The community has really enjoyed the toys, and we’ve enjoyed meeting people.”