Port Moody’s Toy Store a Pandemic Success Story

With more free time, Tri-City residents are turning to children’s games, puzzles and toys to keep themselves busy. Now Village Toy Shop needs to expand to keep up with demand

A year ago, Teresa Johansson wondered if going online would be enough to keep her Port Moody toy store afloat during the COVID-10 pandemic.

This week, his Village Toy Shop opens in a new, larger location in Newport Village, just down the block from the 800-square-foot space he’s held for 19 years.

Johansson said the decision to bolster her store’s online presence to allow people to shop from home when public health restrictions closed the doors of many retail businesses proved to be an unexpected boon. So much so that online sales have since progressed from curbside pickups for locals to shipping toys as far away as Nova Scotia and rural British Columbia.

“It was time to move on,” Johansson said.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business estimates that up to 218,000 small businesses will close due to COVID-19.

Johansson said she and her husband Tom were determined not to be among them. But instead of just surviving the pandemic, they thrived.

At the start of the public health crisis, the village toy store could not keep puzzles in stock as people sought ways to bide their time in self-imposed isolation. Even an 18,000 piece monster sold.

The online sales offering has transformed their family-run operation from solely relying on walk-in customers to a 24/7 operation.

It also means having toys on hand that match the variety customers see at big-box retailers like Toys “R” Us and Mastermind.

But, Johansson said, the cramped store with limited storage space has limited their ability to expand their offerings.

It was last summer when she saw the empty storefront of an old women’s clothing store on the ground floor of the Newport Village office building, Johansson said she had a moment “a-ha”. The 1,250 m². The sq. ft. space means plenty of room to add more products like baby and new mom items, as well as storage and the addition of a desk.

“It was kind of a no-brainer for us,” Johansson said.

Since then, the couple have worked with their landlords to adjust to the transition, made renovations and even commissioned a mural from Port Moody artist Ladawne Shelstad, whose chalk murals on the doors of garage of his townhouse complex in the Klahanie neighborhood helped to lift moods during the early days of the pandemic.

As the doors to their new boutique are about to open, the Johanssons say they’re more excited than nervous about all the unknowns the expansion may bring.

“It’s been a whirlwind one year,” said Teresa Johansson. “It’s nice to see something positive.”