Q&A with ... Bill Jensen, owner of Darien Toy Box
DARIEN — In May, the Darien Toy Box will be celebrating it’s 11th anniversary.
Bill Jensen, owner of the store, has been a town resident for nearly 20 years. After spending time overseas, he became rooted in Darien, and his passion for toys would later lead to him opening his own business.
“We saw the need for a toy store in town,” he said.
Jensen recently spoke about the inspiration to start Darien Toy Box and what it’s like owning a local toy store.
Q: What was the inspiration behind starting the business?
A: I was either going to make toys or sell toys. After several years of corporate life, I saw the opportunity to open the toy box here in town.
Q: What are some changes you have seen in the toy industry/business?
A: It’s almost a question of are we aging down or are kids growing up faster. Kids — boy and girls — want to do more. They’re exposed to so much more between school, camps and everything else. They really want to create things to show what they did. Whether this is craft. legos or puzzles it’s “look mom or dad ... this is what I did and I did it by myself.” I think you’re seeing a lot more of that.
Q: What do you see as some of the more popular toys currently?
A: Puzzles and Legos continue to be by far some of the most popular toys. A company like Legos has been around for a number of years. Kids like to color and make things. Legos continues to be probably the number one toy company right now. Not only in Darien, but everywhere. Kids — or their parents because they choose for them — want toys they can play with over and over again.
Q: What was the experience first opening the store?
A: I think different from other toy stores when you look around this store, it’s not a whole bunch of shelves where you have to pick what you like with no help. The decision was made at the time that this is really going to be customer service. We’re going to be able to tell you where the toys come from, where they’re made, what’s the appropriate age for them and how safe they are. We want to help you make the decision as opposed to when you’re picking online or at a supermarket.
Q: Why would you say local stores are important to the town?
A: We live here so we are more interested in making this downtown area something we can walk about and feel comfortable going from one place to another. I think people want social interaction of being with other people. When you’re an in-personal corporation with chain stores in town they may not care. That corporate guy could be from some place in another city, state or even country. You want to develop a sense of belonging. All these locally owned stores want to contribute something to make our town better. That is key. These are the stores that sponsor all our school events. These are the stores or people who participate or have kids in the sports programs. These are the people who go to the schools and promote some part of the educational well-being.