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Indulge the Kid in You With Toy Store Visit

By JANELL HUNTER

Staff Writer

One way parents can indulge themselves and their children this holiday season is to take some time to really get their hands on the gifts they are considering for purchase.

Of course, time management can be problematic at this time of year, but a visit to a family-owned business such as Deluxe Toy and Hobby in Martins Ferry might just allow parents who are seeking that perfect gift to cut loose and play with the toys in question themselves.

“A lot of the younger generation just does everything via their phone, said Mike Yeso, co-owners of the store with Connie Yeso. “But there are still a lot of people that want to put their hands on a toy, and they’ll go the extra mile to make sure it’s the right toy. I really recommend that people find some time to really look. We can save them money just by making smarter choices.

“The ultimate goal is to get the kids the best quality toys that they will like and will want to play with, not something that’s going to be discarded and not necessarily the most trendy item. Buy things that the kids need.”

Among the items he recommends this year Spooner balance boards and other toys that promote physical activity. He said exercise toys let kids blow some steam off, citing riding toys, basic wagons and more. But even those toys can be dressed up so that they anything but basic. Yeso said wagons now come with cup holders and seats, for example.

“Some things will never go out of style,” he said of toys such as wagons that parents will remember from their own pasts.

When it comes to exercise, however, there is one toy you cannot get at Deluxe. The store no longer sells bicycles.

“We carried bikes for 50 years, but when all the manufacturing moved to China, it cost as much as the bike to get them here,” Yeso noted. “We used to sell hundreds of bikes a year, we would order them a couple hundred at a time.”

As far as trends go, Yeso said a lot of the toys are becoming more sophisticated, such as computer- or iPad-based toys. Lego has some computer-based pieces called Mindstorms that allow users to build something on a very high level and then program it to get it to do what they want it to do. Yeso said Legos are always popular because they change with yearly themes. The company is targeting the female toy market now, he said, with its “Friends” line.

Yeso added that one of the runaway toy items this year is a robotic, electronic egg. Children must feed it and nurture it. After a certain period of time, the egg will come apart and it will hatch a little stuffed creature. They are called Hatchimals, and Yeso said they are extremely hard to get.

“We don’t have them right now,” he said, noting the critters can communicate with each other. He said if two are placed side by side, they will chatter back and forth.

“At the end of the day, we feel that even with all of this super electronic stuff, that the basic toys are all that the kids need,” Yeso said. “That is our strength. We promote classic toys, the building blocks that give the kids a good foundation with hand-eye coordination. There’s a lot that is lost looking at a screen. Kids are losing that fine motor skill.”

He also noted that retro toys are popular this year. Deluxe carries “classic” toys including Lincoln Logs, Slinkies, Tinkertoys and more.

“There are companies that have even brought back out retro Fisher Price toys. We carry that line, and they were off the market for 25 years. Now they’ve come back for this next generation’s kids to enjoy,” he said.

“Playmobil is a wonderful and underrated toy line,” he added. “A lot of the European companies don’t advertise on TV, so many people don’t know about it. They are toys that when kids get it, they want more. It’s just a matter of getting it in their hands.”

Remote-controlled cars, planes and drones are also hot this year, according to Yeso. Deluxe sells what Yeso calls “hobby quality” remote-control toys. These are much more durable than other remote-control toys and can be repaired. The store stocks a complete line of replacement parts for repairs and extra batteries.

“A dad came in and said, ‘I can’t tell you how many of these RCs we have gone through. Every time we get one, my son breaks it and it’s done.’ I told him, ‘This is different, unlike anything you’ve ever had.’

“He came back after Christmas and said, ‘Mike that was the best gift my son has ever received. He is out, off the couch, off the computer, out in the backyard with friends building ramps, making jumps, he’s learned how to fix things,'” said Yeso. “We are seeing sales in this from about 6-8 up, well into the teens. And prices range between $89 and $800.”

Yeso said models are also big sellers for the store, and he thinks hobbies are very important for children.

“Hobbies are great for kids. Once the kids build a model, they enjoy it. They get that sense of pride, and that’s what kids need. They need to see a project through and get a sense of accomplishment. That is good for confidence building,” said Yeso.

The store also has a large selection of science toys that build knowledge in physics, chemistry, horticulture, biology, electronics and archaeology. It also carries a large selection of dolls and doll accessories, kitchen toys, tool toys, trucks, tractors, baby toys, educational toys and board games.

“Family game play is important, it gets families together and they’re laughing. A lot of people remember playing games with their families when growing up. You just can’t beat that interaction, especially when a lot of families don’t eat dinner together. If you can plan a family game night, it’s great,” said Yeso.

The possibilities at Deluxe seem endless, even though it is just one small store in the Purple City. Parents who want to get out of a holiday shopping rut could make the experience more rewarding for themselves and their children by taking time to visit a variety of toy stores and allowing themselves to touch and try out the gifts they are considering as gifts.

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