What would you say is New York City’s definitive toy store? F.A.O. Schwarz? Closed. The Toys R Us with the Ferris Wheel? Also toast. American Girl Doll? The Disney Store? Um…no. NYC’s quintessential and longest continuously-operating toy store is Mary Arnold Toys, first opened in 1931 and now moving to a new spot on the Upper East Side. The shop is celebrating with a grand opening this weekend — read on for the scoop!

Mary arnold toys

photo: Mary Arnold Toys

The Tale of Mary and Arnold
As legend has it, the very first outpost of the store on Lexington Avenue between East 70th and East 71st Streets, was opened in 1931 by a pair named Mary and Arnold. (They might have been married, they might have been siblings. No one is exactly sure.)

In the late 70s, the store spent a few years as a faux-gingerbread house under new ownership before Ezra Ishayik took over in 1983 with his siblings, David and Hope. In 1997, Ishayik moved the whole kit and caboodle to Lexington and East 72nd. His daughter, Judy, quit teaching first grade in New Jersey to join the family business in 2008.

Photo by Mary Arnold Toys.

photo: Mary Arnold Toys

The Cost of Doing Business
Eventually, as it happens for so many New Yorkers, astronomically-raised rents came for Mary Arnold Toys, necessitating the current move a few blocks north. The new location on Lexington at 81st Street is only the store’s third location in 85 years — which by New York standards, is somewhat astounding.

Though the new, 2,300-square-foot, space is several hundred feet smaller than the previous location, the owners are quick to point out that it is more open and boasts higher ceilings. Judy Ishayik gushes, “The layout will be different in the new store and it will have a more open feel. The high ceilings will allow for floor to ceiling toys, any — child’s dream!”

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photo: Mary Arnold Toys

At Your Service
One thing that won’t be changing with the new location is the store’s pride and joy: their world-class customer service. It’s what’s kept generations of families coming back for over 80 years (some even call from Florida to place orders for their grandchildren).

The Mary Arnold touch includes free gift wrapping, free shipping within the city, festive and frequently-changing window displays, and an expertly curated selection of toys that includes Madame Alexander dolls, Raggedy Anns, rocking horses, Daniel Boone/Davy Crockett dress up, and baseball mitts alongside Barbie play-sets, hot-pink scooters, electronics, and Frozen capes.

As a means to make their wares affordable for all, Mary Arnold Toys is a member of the American Specialty Toy Retail Association, which offers merchandise discounts to help mom-and-pop (or father-daughter) stores all across the country keep costs down and business up.

party balloon

photo: MoneyBlogNewz via Flickr

Grand Opening Celebration!
Families already familiar with this Upper East Side hidden gem, as well as those eager to take a look for the first time, are invited to Mary Arnold Toys’ Grand Opening Celebration, taking place on Saturday, September 10 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The Festivities will include glitter tattoos, mini pop-up portrait shoots from Classic Kids Photography, an appearance by Mr. and Mrs. Clown, a raffle and goodie-bag giveaways. Local retailers like Yummy Mummy, Bonne Nuit, Grace’s Marketplace, Oren’s Daily Roast, and Butterfield Market will provide raffle prizes and refreshments.

The following weekend, on Saturday, September 17 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., it’s Mary Arnold Toys’ Annual Lego Make ‘N’ Take. Kids can make a free Lego creature – and take it home with them!

Even more events are planned for the fall, including story times. Stay up to date on all that’s happening at this new, old place via the newsletter at: info@maryarnoldtoys.com.

Mary Arnold Toys
212-744-8510
Mon. – Fri., 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., Sun, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
1178 Lexington Ave.
Upper East Side
Online: maryarnoldtoys.com

 

What’s your favorite NYC toy store? Tell us in the comments below!

— Alina Adams