Pikesville's only independently owned toy store is stocked up and ready for Hanukkah and Christmas. Why shop at a small toy store?
"We are very particular about what we put on our shelves. ... There are a lot of great-grandparents and parents in the area and a lot of them will seek out an independent store like us," said owner Tom Towles.
"The inventory we select is what we call 'beautiful, purposeful play,'" he said. That means the toys are beautiful, often educational or useful and of high quality.
And they're selected from throughout the world. There are Haba wood toys from Germany, Melissa & Doug, Geobaby of Switzerland which manufactures a magnetic toy for babies, and Mannu & Simon pull toys, made in San Diego.
Towles and Claudia Towles, his wife, own the Pikesville aMuse Toys store, as well as aMuse in Fells Point.
The Fells Point couple opened the Pikesville store, located 2576 Quarry Lake Drive, in summer 2008, and the Fells Point store in 2006.
"We took a very long time to pick a second location," Tom Towles said. But Pikesville was their choice because of "a mix of geography and community."
For example, the shopping center, Quarry Lake at Greenspring, is close to the Baltimore Beltway, and brings in customers from Ellicott City and many from Pennsylvania, he said.
"There are so many private and public schools, churches and synagogues. It's a great place to get involved with the community. We love it," he said.
Towles said they're proud of their products and of their nine-member Pikesville staff, who are willing to learn where each toy comes from and why it's a good toy.
Towles gave Pikesville Patch some toy recommendations for this holiday season:
Uncle Goose blocks, made in Michigan. These wooden blocks are beautiful and help teach subjects such as Hebrew, Spanish, or the U.S. presidents.
Kleynimals, invented by an Annapolitan. Babies love to play with a set of keys. A woman from Annapolis invented safe ones—a set of stainless steel key-like animals that are easily cleaned and are safe for babies to handle and put in their mouths.
Chickyboom, a family game. This game helps children learn to find the natural balance and to acquire dexterity. Chickens and weighted pieces are stacked on a board that is balanced atop a rounded piece of wood. Players take turns removing a piece while keeping the entire board balanced.
Tegu magnetic blocks. These are popular as desk toys. A set of magnetic wooden blocks helps you "build wonderful wooden structures," Towles said. They are made by a company in Honduras that provides a living wage for its workers, and replaces the trees it uses. "They (the blocks) are more expensive, but they are responsible," he said of Tegu.
Towles admits that the couple has some help picking out the toys.
Their son Sebastian, 10, "helps us find really great things. He's a very lucky little man," Towles said.
The store is open seven days per week, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
The store is closed on Christmas Day, July 4 and on the Orioles' opening day.
For more information, call the store at 410-415-0000.