Sunday, June 17, 2007

Let's go shopping! Children's Palace

A typical Children's Palace/Child World store front (from "The Color of Money")

Children's Palace and Child World toy stores

One of our little obsessions here at Geektarded is the by-gone toy store chain, Children's Palace. The Palace opened it's doors in Omaha in early November 1985. The store was located at 7500 Dodge St., at the former "Handy Dan" hardware store location. As far as I know it was the first big chain toy store in the area (Toys R Us didn't open until 1987, in the same shopping center, no less). Omaha did have "Toys Plus" a part of a small chain of about 35 stores that were based out of St. Charles, Mo. and closed around late 1987/early 1988.

Due to the recession and competition from other retailers, Child World Inc. started closing unprofitable stores. The Omaha CP lasted until late March of 1991. The store closed for Easter Sunday and never reopened.

The Palace was a wonder to behold. The store front was designed to look like a castle and inside the shelves were stacked to the rafters with new and old toys.

The old toys are one of my fondest memories of Children's Palace. They did not get rid of old stock and it appeared that they would also buy closeout stock from other stores. When they first opened we mostly did our new toy shopping there (Transformers, GI Joe, M.A.S.K., Super Powers). But around 1987, when I as 12 years old, I started to get into toy collecting as a hobby. My dad and I would go to CP every weekend and hit the clearance sections around the store. It was a wonderland. Old Robotech, Kronofoms, Godaikins, Super Powers, Megos, Gobots, Rock Lords and more.

Stuff that I still kick myself for not buying (aside from all the mint in box Robotech mecha) were the clearance priced Masters of the Universe toys that were stockpiled at the front of the store when you walked in. I remember tons of mint on card Kind Randor, Sorceress and Scare Glow Skeletor figures just stilling there along with just about any older figures and vehicles you could want.

I can still remember a family trip up north around 1988 or 89 (I think South Dakota) and stopping at an older CP store that still was fully stocked with Clash of the Titans and Raiders of the Lost Ark toys. Shelves and pegs full of figures and playsets. I remember barely having any money at the time but I managed to get an Indiana Jones figure, a Mego Human Torch, some Batman & Robin Color-a-Card playing cards from the late 70s and a Super Friends Parcheesi game. But man did I want those Raiders and Titans toys. At the very least a Kraken and Perseus with Pegasus...












A couple of Child World interiors from "The Color of Money"

Anyway... after the Omaha store closed the nearest stores were in Kansas City and Overland Park and those closed in 1992. I remember going down to both stores a couple of times before Child World Inc. closed for good.

Man, I wonder what happened to all that old clearance stock...

If anyone out there has any photos or info that is Children's Palace or Child World related, shoot us an email at geektarded@cox.net. I'm always looking and researching, so I'll post more photos and artifacts as I find them.
Peter Panda, the Children's Palace mascot
Facts from WikipediaChild World Inc.
Founded in 1974
Based out of Avon, Massachusetts

Store designsChild World was known largely for making its stores resemble castles, complete with turrets, battlements, and three half-circles (two small, one large) in the front door. The storefront motifs came from the Children's Palace stores (est. 1967), a subsidiary of Kobacker Stores, Inc. which Child World acquired in 1977.

Mascot Peter Panda

The End...
In 1991: Child World began to close less successful retail locations.
May 7, 1992: Child World filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
June 1992: A merger was attempted with the Lionel Corporation, operators of Lionel Playworld, Lionel Kiddie City, and Lionel Toy Warehouse. Child World announced that if the merger was not complete by July 12, 1992, it would begin liquidating its inventory at 20% off retail prices. Child World said the merger was its only chance to continue operating, and if talks failed, liquidation would escalate into a going-out-of-business sale.
August 4, 1992: Child World announced that the merger with Lionel had failed, and all Child World stores closed within four to six weeks of this announcement.

Most of the old store fronts were remodeled for the new retailers,
but a few castle fronts survived the change.

Apparently, Best Buy was expanding at the time Child World Inc. went under and took over many of the old locations. That was the case in Omaha, Denver and Chicago. To this day, I do 90% of my movie shopping at that Best Buy in the old Children's Palace location because there were a lot of great memories created in that building.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

i can remember going to children's palace when i was very young and seeing a cereal advertised as 'toy only'. it was basically a box in the shape of a cereal box with an image of a boy pouring toy cars and helicopters and decoder rings and other cheap plastic toys into a cereal bowl. i regret not buying it, as i have never seen it anywhere else. maybe that doesn't sound interesting today, but in the late 80s, paying a couple bucks for a box of a hundred random plastic toys sounded like a good deal. i still think of it every so often and check ebay, but i haven't found anything.

Papi said...

I grew up in MA, not far from the HQ, and Child World was more plentiful than Toys R Us around Massachusetts. I went to the two-level store in Quincy, MA as a kid often, and they had the old pre-children's Palace font, and since it was in the middle of a downtown shopping district, did not really have a castle motif like the freestanding stores. I got a lot of Thundercats stuff from there when I was 8 or so? And those handheld Tiger LCD games there really cheap 1988-1990. Wish I still had those!

Matthew said...

I remember being a young lad obsessed with Pee-Wee's Playhouse, yet not able to find a Cowboy Curtis figure. I remember insisting to my mom that there must be one in one of the battlements attached to the building.

That store was one of my fondest memories of my childhood. I remember being given a prize box around christmas '90 or '91 that contained coupons, snacks, and a promo VHS that I loved to death.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IgCJWYotihE

Anonymous said...

I only have one memory of the place, anyone remember the vampire popsicles they sold there? They were black and filled with red ooze.

Erika said...

Ah, Children's Palace! My idea of heaven in the late 70s and early 80s was a trip out to the State Road store in Cuyahoga Falls. It was located next to the Ascot Drive-In and the old Spitzer dealership. I, too, remember the "old toys" there and have many regrets about things I could have gotten but didn't because they were...well, old! It was an odd location because even back then, there just wasn't really anything out there in terms of retail, but as this was before the dawning of Toys R Us in our area, there really wasn't anywhere else to go. After it closed, which I want to say was probably the late 80s, it became a bingo place for awhile, retaining the original castle features. At this point the whole building front has been changed and I'm not sure what it is. I rarely go out that way anymore because there's nothing there, but I drove past it the other day and was moved to nostalgia.

Erika said...

I should add I am talking about the store in Cuyahoga Falls, OHIO. Silly me!

Nickdoctorwho said...

The Child World in Chicago Ridge became an Office Depot after it closed. Its exterior remains but a shadow of what occupied the space 17 years previously.

I remember watching as they took down the turrets and removed the lettering, a sad day to be sure. I can't remember, but I think I cried a lot--we all cried a lot.

I've been trying to piece together my memories of the Child World toy-stores for a few years. I even bought the "1990 Video Toy Chest" on eBay a while back, to see if that could jog my memory. It did, to an extent.

How many happy days I once spent at the Child World toy stores...

Anonymous said...

My first job started back on September 29th 1981 at Children's Palace when I was 16!. I continued to work there until July 11, 1992 when they closed their doors forever in my hometown. I started in the toy department and ultimately became a store manager.

Ahh... the memories... Looking at the pictures on this sight have brought back the memories.

Dr. Geektarded, I had the pleasure of helping to open the store in Omaha. Unfortunately, this is the only time I have ever visited your fine city. I was involved with over 20 store openings.

I also remember when they filmed "The Color of Money". We were excited that Children's Palace (CP) would be in a major movie. I recall that CP was paid $25,000 for a day of shooting for the scenes. This equated to one days average sales for that location. The "customers" in the scenes were filled in by store personel and their families. I still watch the movie on occasion.

Dr. you ask what happened to all of the clearance items? Well, we sold them! (obviously) But here is the rest of the story: The reason why CP had so many "old" items was their "pack-away system". We would store all boxed merchandise above the area in the actual aisles of the store. All pegged items (i.e matchbox, hotwheels, seasonal) would be boxed up and stored in the warehouse. Here is where the issue happened. As the store sold down items like Matchbox cars, we would get another few cases in on our truck so we would fill the shelves with this product. The overstock Matchbox cars in the pack-aways stayed in the warehouse, never seeing the light of day. This inefficient way of stock balancing was one of the many factors to the demise of CP. Ideally, todays retailers have eliminated the back stock all together as to not tie up these dollars. I recall meeting a Matchbox collector who asked to see any unopened cases in the warehouse. He was like a kid in a candy store as he looked through the 5+ year old cases.

During the closeout procedures, we had incremental markdowns that were sent down by corporate for 10 weeks. (i.e. 10% off, 20% off) It was in the last few days that we went from 70% off to 90% off retail prices. We continuously pulled the old pack-aways out of the back room as merchandise sold down. WOW.... all of these old items came out!!! Old Mego figures (like the Spiderman you have pictured. I bought a case of 6 for 50 cents each!)Michael Jackson dolls, Starting lineup, and so on... I bought several items... but I couldn't buy them all. I still have these items MOC. I only had one child then (age 1) and boxed them up. Now, I see these items on EBAY so I never let my kids play with them. (Shame on me)

The last hour of the last day, my liquidator consultant had me put up a sign that said "Everything you can fit in your cart - only $10". Needless to say, everything was gone within the hour. I took a video camera and video taped some of the mayhem on the last day. Fortunatly, I had a job lined up and was paid nearly 3 months severance/remaining vacation pay if I stayed to the end.

I do have some OD memorabilia. I have all my name badges (15) from sales associate to store manager. All of my yearly reward certificates and pins. Many Peter Panda licensed items, and my prized possession... a custom full size Peter Panda suit that was used during grand openings and parades. (My wife gets mad at me for keeping all this crap)

Anyway, I will email some photos when I locate them as I have many pictures. I am still in the retail field and to this day, I still have people come up to me and ask if I used to work at Children's Palace. They then say they remember their parents taking them to CP when they were kids and they remember me!

I have great memories of CP. I met my wife there. My best friends worked there. We still get together every once in awhile to catch up. It was a great experience working there!

Callie said...

I went to the Children's Palace in Southgate, Michigan! I remember the stuffed animal aisle the most. Stuffed animals as far as the eye could see all the way up to the ceiling (or so it looked to a 7 year old). It got turned into a Best Buy and now sits vacant...:-(

Anonymous said...

I purchased a musical cassette in the 80's using my child's name. If anyone has info as to where I can get it I would appreciate it. They were silly songs using his name and it brings back wonderful memories when I hear them.

Anonymous said...

I miss Child World. I also grew up i Mass and i loved going there.
Time to get working on that Time Machine in my basement.

~UU~

Anonymous said...

I remember how darn HOT that Peter the Panda outfit was that I wore from time to time at the store in North Olmsted Ohio (CP #59.) There was also a Strawberry Shortcake outfit that made the rounds, but it was not the same type of full character suit that Peter was, more of a costume. I'll have to look for the pictures.

I worked at CP #59 while in college from 1982 to 1988. Had some really good times with a wonderful group of people there.

ecity said...

I still remember going to Children's Palace in Indianapolis. I am curious though if anybody remembers the former location of that store. Also I was driving around St. Louis back in 2000 and thought I noticed a castle building that reminded me of CP. Does anyone remember where that location around St. Louis was.
Either post on here or email me at entensecity@yahoo.com.
Thanks!!!

Anonymous said...

The St Louis location is on South Lindbergh Blvd. It is now a JC Penny Home Store. Used to shop there all the time for GI Joes back in the day

Anonymous said...

We used to go to the Dayton Ohio Salem Mall location. That was always a huge deal for us, since we lived an hour away.

There was also a Children's Palace just south of Northgate Mall in Cincinnati. I believe that one became a Staples - and they kept they arched windows. No idea if it's still around though...last time I saw it was a good 10-15 years ago.

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Rafael Ralph Garcia said...

I respond to the Anonymous writer that mentioned he/she worked at Child World Toy store where they filemd the Color of Money. I also worked there as well and was hired before the grand opening. The working team was awesome, we really had a lot of fun working there, sometimes I would work stock in the front of the store and other times in the back getting bicycles, motor vehicles and things like that. I also recall working til midnight or later on Xmas eve of that opening year. The manager was a woman, Pat I think, she was really nice and make you feel proud to be part of the team. My name is Rafael or Ralph as they might have known me. veloz11@yahoo.com

kacee cain said...

I live & grew up in Akron, OH... Children's Palace was a huge deal in my childhood! I remember being terrified to walk in because there was a blow up shark pool toy hanging to the left when you walked in. My mom would have to drag me in kicking & screaming in until I was out of the shark's eyesight. Toys'R'Us was 2 buildings over and I much rather would have gone there..no sharks! I also remember when it closed and reopened years later as Marcs (just like the picture shown!)

Anonymous said...

I remeber going to The Palace every Saturday. It was the best toy store ever. You just had to go down each and every asle because you never knew what you were going to find around the corner. I got a lot of toys from The Palace. The bast is my stuffed Snarf toy from the Thundercats. Snarf still sits on my bed to this day. A small reminder of the good ol days when toy stores were TOY STORES.

Ian Sherman said...

We had a Children's Palace here in Columbus, Ohio out on 2296 Morse Rd., in the Northtowne Center. I recall going there a few times back when I was 3 or 4. It closed out around '92. It later became Dunham's Sports, then Media Play, and now an Aldi.

I guess it's true, competition IS payin' the price!

JCam said...

I visited St. Paul, MN back in the summer of 1991, i was 8 years old at the time and one of my fondest memories is going to Children's Palace.

I'm planning to go back to St. Paul one of these days and would definitely like to visit the site where the store used to be. The thing is I have no clue where that would be!

If anybody know where the Children Palace/s in the area of St. Paul and Minneapolis were located please let me know. I'd appreciate it.

michael smith said...

I remember going there almost daily, watching for new Transformers, GIJOE, and a few other toys to come out. I also recall they had a game machine up front, that played pre released NES games(Super Mario3 was one) And remember it going under not long after Toys-R-Us opening just a block away(which, as I recall from My last visit, is now closed as well) Such fond memories of CP, and living just across the way from NW Plaza before it was remodeled in '87-88.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in IL but I remember a couple of Children Palace's in the area specifically the one just out side of St Louis MO on Lindbergh Blvd and the other in MO Next to the Show Biz Pizza Place off Old Halls Ferry St. I think I bought a ton of He Man action figures there and god knows what else before that. The one on old Halls Ferry is still there, not sure what it actual is now but it is obvious what it once was, still has the windows and towers. The area is so bad that pretty much avoid that whole area.

Any way its really great to hear everyone's memories of this great place, I too get a little sad every time I drive by it. I've been looking for some pics, not much out there. Its such a shame.

If anyone can point me to information or pics I would greatly appreciate it my email is project_dark_grey_1@yahoo.com