Investing in early childhood education and strengthening creativity through playtime.
Thatâ€™s what Gingerbread Toys in Prince George has provided to the public for three decades as the local business celebrates its 30th anniversary this week.
The specialty toy shop, located at 7086 Domano Blvd., focuses on developing the minds of kids by providing safe, fun, and educational products that keep its customers coming back.
This is something Manager Megan Swan has been keen on in the 14 years sheâ€™s been with the small business, which has been in its College Heights location for 12 years.
â€œItâ€™s the relationships with customers,â€ she said in an interview with PrinceGeorgeMatters. â€œSome of our customers back then were here for their kids, and some of them are coming back now for their grandkids and those relationships are really what keeps us going […] Everyone who works here has kids in their lives. We open the toys, we play with them ourselves, we know what we sell, so we can provide that service.â€
Much like other local businesses, Gingerbread Toys has its fair share of competitors in the Prince George market.
Swan says while the toy business is also drastically shifting into the digital age of online shopping and such, she believes picking the right product should have a personal touch.
â€œIt boils down to providing good customer service. We like to help our customers find things. Lots of times, we get people coming in trying to buy a gift for a two-year-old and they donâ€™t know what to look for, so we help them find something thatâ€™s developmentally appropriate and you canâ€™t get that online or from a big box store.â€
And, itâ€™s not just toys the store offers!
On top of popular products like Playmobil, plush toys, and classic board games, Gingerbread Toys also allows schools with the Prince George district (SD57) to rent musical instruments after they took over for neighbours, Sight and Sound.
â€œThey donâ€™t have a store here anymore, so we took on that side of their business here in Prince George for quite a few years now,â€ Swan said. â€œItâ€™s a really good fit and we do find that a lot of people coming in for band instruments are people that we used to see come in for toys, but now that their kids are getting a little bit older so now we keep in touch with those customers a little bit longer. Itâ€™s different from what we normally do, but weâ€™ve learned a lot from it.â€
Gingerbread Toys, as part of being classified as a â€˜neighbourhood storeâ€™ to the entire Prince George community, also partners each year with the University Hospital of Northern B.C. (UHNBC) for its annual Christmas in July Toy Drive.
Collected toys are donated to the Paediatric Unit at UHNBC, as well as gift certificates, and interested residents are encouraged to go to Gingerbread Toys, or visit the businessâ€™ Facebook page, to see how they can contribute to the cause.
â€œWe would like to thank our amazing customers, who have chosen to shop with us and have made the last 30 years a pleasure,â€ said Founder Nancy Condon in a email to PrinceGeorgeMatters.
Condon opened Gingerbread Toys in 1989 in Terrace before moving it to Prince George in 1997.