Leaving the solid pay of the corporate world to risk opening a toy store in Glen Cove wasn’t too difficult a decision for 28-year-old Robert Lee.
“I couldn’t see myself in a cubicle crunching numbers all day,” said Lee, a Glen Cove native.
The 2007 closing of the KB Toys next to his father’s liquor store on Forest Avenue left Glen Cove’s youngest demographic without a local toy store, Lee said. He remembered a manager he had known at the now-bankrupt franchise’s location saying that he hoped to open his own store one day. Lee ran with the idea after visiting a toy fair at the Jacob Javitz Convention Center in Manhattan earlier this year.
“I’m a kid at heart. I play with toys all the time,” said Lee, who graduated from Stony Brook University with a degree in applied math and statistics.
After working as a bookkeeper, an analyst and a real estate agent, he decided to change course and took out loans to open , named for his younger brother. His father and the rest of the family liked the idea, Lee said, and were confidant he would make something of it.
“I’m a businessman by nature because my whole family – everybody owns a business,” he said.
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Lee said he tries to think like a parent when choosing what to stock his shelves with, focusing on toys that facilitate a child’s imagination and develop skills and intellect. He said he keeps his markups on such items less than what the major retailers charge.
The hardest part of the venture has been dealing with the location, he said. His store occupies a former medical office on Forest Avenue, across the street from his father’s liquor store. The location had been vacant for years prior to his moving in. With limited visibility from the street and acquiring better signage complicated by building department regulations, Lee said his best advertising has been via Facebook and, of course, happy customers.
“If customers are satisfied, they’re your advertisements,” Lee said.
The turnout was good at the grand opening on June 1, he said, and in the less than two weeks since then he has seen some customers return multiple times – “people who like to spoil their grandkids,” he surmised.
With the corporate grind behind him, Lee relaxes behind the counter and talks about his new business with an optimistic nonchalance.
“I’m loving it,” said Lee. “You’re not in a cubicle, you’re dealing with kids – every day is different.”