One Austin entrepreneur is giving new life to a beloved retail institution.
Last month, Austinites were saddened to learn that due to mounting financial troubles, Toy Joy would be forced to close its doors. But, on March 31, a public auction was held at the store's new Second Street District location, and Toy Joy sold for $102,000. The amount does not include the real estate leased by previous owners.
Fred Schmidt, owner of downtown retail businesses Wild About Music and Austin Rocks Texas, purchased the iconic toy store, and in a press release late Tuesday, Schmidt stated his intention to keep Toy Joy open for business.
"To be clear: I did not intend to purchase another retail store when I woke up on Monday morning," said Schmidt. "I actually went to the auction with a heavy heart, fearing the potential loss of yet another piece of Austin’s unique character like so many other iconic brands and experiences."
The passion of Toy Joy's former owners Lizzy Newsome and Trevor Yopp inspired Schmidt and his business partner Shelley Meyer to give Toy Joy another try. "Trevor and Lizzy are a big part of the motivation to get behind this purchase," Schmidt told CultureMap. Newsome and Yopp gained ownership of Toy Joy in the fall of 2008, right before news of the recession broke. Due to the rising cost of rent at the original location on 29th and Guadalupe and decreasing sales, the owners relocated to a new spot right in the 2nd Street District.
In an extensive open letter detailing their struggles with the store, Newsome and Yopp stated that while rent was much cheaper and sales increased at the new location, they had no money to advertise or pay off a bank loan. They were forced to close Toy Joy's doors and put the store in the hands of the bank, but not for long.
"We are thrilled that the possibility of [Toy Joy's] continued existence has been secured by our friends at Wild About Music," the former owners said in a press release. "We will do our best to support and cultivate Toy Joy through this transition and are glad that it will finally have access to the entrepreneurial expertise and experience it so deserves."
Under new ownership, Newsome and Yopp will likely remain involved with the store. "We want to give them space for a while considering what they went through recently, but we intend to keep them part of the business," Schmidt told CultureMap. "They are very creative and are the right generation to help make this store successful."
With Toy Joy in the hands of an experienced downtown retailer Austin’s weirdest toy store should be delighting locals again."The next step is to work on the lease and to keep it in the same space," Schmidt said. "We don't need to move it again. We already understand the downtown traffic patterns. And then we will get it open as quickly as possible."