An Upper West Side Toy Store-y That Will Warm Your Heart (And Maybe Get You Offline!)

West Side Kids.

By Carol Tannenhauser

Hanukkah is here and so is Christmas. If you need a present, or simply a pick-me-up on a dreary, down-news day, you might consider a trip to a local toy store. WSR visited two this week to see how they’re doing in this make-it-or-break-it holiday season. We found them bursting with color, crammed to their ceilings with toys, books and crafts, and run by two salt-of-the-UWS small business owners, offering just what you are seeking.

Jennifer Bergman and Donna Schofield have a lot in common.

Jennifer Bergman.

Donna Schofield.

Jennifer is the owner of West Side Kids, a long-standing, independent toy store on Amsterdam Avenue and 84th Street, started by her mom 38 years ago.

Donna took over Stationery and Toy World, on 72nd Street, between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues, from her dad, who bought it 33 years ago.

Their stores are only 14 blocks apart, so it was a little surprising when Jennifer, who we saw first, said, “Definitely cover Donna, too! She absolutely needs it. We’re in the same boat. We saw each other at the Save Our Stores meeting and exchanged notes.”

When we told Donna later, she replied, “Listen, we’re all in this together.”

Both women assured us that they are not in danger of closing; they recently signed new leases. But times are tough. Jennifer’s sales are down 15% this year-to-date, and Donna’s are down 25%. Jennifer didn’t beat around the bush.

“We all know why business isn’t good,” she said, as we sat in a back room of West Side Kids, which she uses for events and exhibitions, on Kindergarten-sized chairs. “We all know why stores are vacant. We can see the trucks and packages out there on the streets and in our lobbies. My mom says, ‘Maybe you’re just seeing it because you’re looking for it.’ I don’t think so. It seems like there’s so much more this year.”

“Go see Donna,” Jennifer urged. “She has so many toys. If I don’t have something, I always send my customers to her.”

What?

“Yeah,” Donna said, smiling, as she stood behind the register at Stationery and Toy World, 14 blocks south. “The last time it was juggling balls. Jennifer was out of stock, so she called me and I had one pack left. She sent her customer down. I do the same thing.”

Just then, a couple approached the register to pay. Obviously, they had overheard our conversation, because the woman said, “Now I feel guilty that I bought anything on Amazon, but I had a kidney stone I was trying to pass. I couldn’t get out here!”

(WSR: “That’s the best excuse I’ve heard yet!”)


The competition.

“Every single person that you know and I know shops online,” Jennifer said. “I shop online. I don’t know how to avoid it at this point. But I don’t buy from Amazon. I only buy from sites that have brick-and-mortar stores. There needs to be a correction, a balance.”

“My mom came in the other day,” she added. “She says we’ve been through so many other things in the past and this is just another hurdle we have to get over. She may be right. I don’t know. It seems different this time. It’s consumer-driven.”

In the meantime, the toys await, and the gift wrap is ready.

Stationery and Toy World, 125 West 72nd Street, 212-580-3922, Monday to Saturday: 9:00am to 7:00pm, Sunday: 10:00am to 5:00pm.

West Side Kids, 498 Amsterdam Avenue, (212) 496-7282, Monday to Thursday: 11 to 7, Friday and Saturday: 10 to 7, Sunday, 11 to 6.

NEWS | 33 comments | permalink
    1. Wijmlet says:

      wonderful story

    2. Natali says:

      I went to Donna when I needed just the right red pen. I believe I bought a few other things as well. She was very nice.

    3. Paul says:

      The taxes paid by the store owners subsidize the infrastructure used by the delivery based companies that undercut the stores.

      We must make changes in this system.

      • Sherman says:

        Huh?

        Please explain how a business can pick and choose how its tax expenses will be spent.

        You can also say that the Amazon delivery trucks paid toll charges on bridges which subsidized infrastructure for the inventory deliveries to the toy stores.

        Makes no sense.

        That said, I wish these proprietors well. They face an uphill struggle but I hope they last.

        • Paul says:

          “Amazon delivery trucks paid toll charges on bridges which subsidized infrastructure for the inventory deliveries to the toy stores.”
          Really? They pay more than the trucks that deliver to the retailers from the wholesalers?
          Seriously?

    4. lynn says:

      I haven’t been to West Side Kids yet as I don’t buy a lot of toys, but I shop regularly at SaTW for almost everything. I’m glad to hear they both renewed their leases! It’s so nice to go into a store where there are friendly and knowledgable salespeople, and they’re always ready to help you find what you’re looking for. : )

      • Satisfied Customer says:

        I endorse Lynn’s observation about the friendliness and helpfulness of the salespeople at Stationery and Toy World. I’ve never gone there without finding a toy that will make a kid happy.

    5. Liifeoong UWS says:

      Yes, the Amazon situation is much worse this year. Just 2 years ago there were few people in my building getting deliveries. Now it’s everyone. I don’t know why this year is so much more intense.

    6. Mary Moore says:

      Just bought something from Donna yesterday. She and her father have always been very helpful not only to the individual in the store but to the community at large.

      They are an institution!

    7. Holly says:

      If you go to the big stores you often have to buy 5 of something you only need one of, plus 72nd Street Stationary just has better and more interesting things and sales help who really help! I get wonderful felt tip pens there, wrapping paper, and my annual appointment book, just to name a few. I’ve always shopped from Donna and before that from her dad. They’re the best!

    8. MAD says:

      S&TW is a great store! You can buy just one manila envelope or a pack, several folders or a bunch — they allow you to choose what you need. This is a huge plus for me, as I don’t like to buy stationery in large quantities. Donna is very helpful and you can find anything in that store — even spools of black and white thread (at least as of a couple of years ago). Just ask!

    9. BiancaNeve says:

      West Side Kids is a NYC treasure!! Wonderful stock, lovely people, magical space: you MUST GO THERE.
      Thank you, Jenny, for all the years of perfect birthday & holiday presents I’ve discovered through you!!

    10. UWS Mom says:

      The tale of inter store teamwork is heartwarming but I still decline to shop at west side kids — they proudly messaged politics as though that were a noble deed — whatever for? In a toy store? — and duly made conservative voters feel like troglodytes. Maybe if they hadnt alienated many of their non latter liberal neighbors they might have a larger customer base to better weather changing spending patterns. Really, I come into toy stores with my kids to shop for toys, not to have my kid educated that we were apparently second class citizens. No thanks.

      • HelenD says:

        But if you’re only going there to buy toys then why would you be influenced not to buy toys because of their political opinions? What’s the alternative? Is there a Toys R Us somewhere? I really miss the ol’ ‘throwing my hands in the air’ emoji.

    11. UWSSurfer says:

      I love both shops.

      The window displays of Westside Kids are always fun to see. My bunny rabbit adored the dollhouse I bought him there. He would stand out on the balcony like Evita.

      Toy World has everything under the sun — wonderful toys and a million stationery items.

      Donna, her dad (I miss him!), and the sweet clerks are fantastic.

    12. TravelgalNYC says:

      West Side Kids also has books for kids, not just toys! And they giftwrap for free. Great neighborhood spot.

    13. Toni says:

      UWS Historical Correction: Walter Lion and his wife originally owned Stationery and Toy World on 72nd St. Donna Schofield’s father bought it from them. (From Toni who has been shopping there since 1970, long before the Lions sold the store to Donna’s father and retired to Florida.) Buy from Donna!

    14. Naomi Sheiner says:

      I shop at both stores. West Side Kids is great at conferring and suggesting toys and games for each age group and listening carefully to my particular requests.. Stationery and Toy World always has anything and everything I’m looking for that no-one else has in the way of stationery.

    15. Camille says:

      West Side Kids is a gem of a toy store! Jenny gives a lot of thought to the items that she sells; there are many items that you will not find anywhere else. She has an eye for toys that are manufactured in an environmentally responsible way. Other items give a nod toward gender equity. In fact, many years ago, we purchased the card game Old Bachelor (instead of Old Maid). It was fabulous! The cards featured women in professions that were/are traditionally dominated by men – plumbers, scientists, mechanics, etc. WSK has wonderful books and toys in every price range, and the staff is very helpful. In addition to buying gifts at WSK, I also buy books and toys for my classroom.

    16. DrM says:

      I was JUST in Stationary and Toy World today looking for a particular item and walked out with an armful of things that had been on my ‘to do’ list for ages! I was helped immediately in a friendly, non-pushy manor and had nice conversation with Donna when I checked out.

      (About WSK and ‘troglodyte’ [your own description] conservative voters, UWS Mom. perhaps you need to think about why somebody simply showing their support for something makes you so angry. Of course folks are proud of their political opinions. Why – are you embarrassed by yours?). Anyway, I’ll be back regularly to explore their extensive inventory or just to be treated so nicely!

    17. WSMOM says:

      I wanted to love WS Kids, but have never once had a good experience in there. The staff is very often rude and dismissive and unhelpful and not that nice to kids either. I love supporting small businesses in the area, but I stopped going there. Many of my friends feel the same. Great small businesses for kids in the area include DOT & Stoopher and Boots—warm welcoming places that get to know the customers and love the kids.

      • Phil_Roth_was_it says:

        UWS Mom nailed it on the head.
        Don’t cram your political beliefs down our proverbial throats. Sorry, but we are not all liberal cultural elite UWSiders. We did not all go to those 8 ELITE schools where one is taught all the right ways to act, behave and vote. Sometimes we, as UWS forget there are other folks out there who’s opinion are just as valid as ours.
        But ANY store is not the place to expound on it. UWS Kids has a political agenda (as well as trying to make a living). No thanks I will go else where…even if it is on-line. And even if I may agree with her political beliefs.

      • UWSanon says:

        Totally agree. I am happy to support local businesses, but I’ve repeatedly had negative experiences here. Unfriendly, unhelpful staff. And sometimes I wait 15+ min for a giftwrap!

    18. Marion says:

      As an aunt of 3 adorable kids, I rely on the personalized service I receive at West Side Kids! The team always know what the hottest toys are, and they are always full of great gift ideas. I WOULD BE LOST WITHOUT YOU!
      I need you and will continue to support you!

    19. Debbie says:

      I don’t know Jennifer at West Side Kids but I do know Donna at Stationery and Tony World. No Amazon or any online experience will ever replicate shopping there. If you need a smile in your day or a shot of warmth in your heart, go shop with Donna. I would be heartbroken if she ever had to close, as would countless other UWS neighbors who feel like Stationery and Toy. World is part of our community home.

    20. Mary Vinci says:

      Best toy store on upper west side

    21. Beth says:

      I recommend Hex & Co for board games.

      • lynn says:

        Does anyone mind if I insert myself in this thread to ask where I might find an old fashioned boutique type pharmacy (NOT DR) that would carry beautiful apothecary containers of bath salts and other things that makes a nice presentation as a gift? Any suggestions? TY in advance!

        • Robin says:

          Broadway Chemists on Broadway and 85th St. They have lovely things in addition to the pharmacy. And how about including Gold Leaf stationary on Amsterdam and 89th St.? They have such a large assortment of wonderful, wonderful things and the owner is a very, very lovely man. Give them a shot too!