« Not Really My Scene | Main | Barbie- Still the Same »

Confessions of a Toy Store Worker

Throughout high school, I worked in a privately owned toy store. The store is located in the busy tourist area of Duluth by the lake. I remember placing orders for dolls, marking them and stocking them on the shelves.

We didn’t sell any Matell dolls, but we did sell other brands with similar physical constructions. We sold a brand of dolls called ‘Groovy Girls’. These dolls were not all similar. They were not all blonde with white skin color. There was quite a diverse selection. The Groovy Girls mantra is as follows, “The hippest playmates and most fashionable friends, our Groovy Girls ® collection is spectacular! Designed with an eye for style, our groovy girls playmates sport funky removable outfits with cool details like hook and loop closures and awesome accessories. Groovy Girls show that beauty comes in all colors, styles and sizes. As no two are alike, our special Groovy Girls® teach children to celebrate diversity.? As you can see, the degree of diversity is great. Besides white, there were different races including Latina and Asian, as well as representations of both genders. Their sexualities are not an issue here. They do not have a trim waistline or a high bust. They are in their younger teens, specifically the ‘tweens’ group. The dolls are dressed appropriately, and have a Holly Hobby time of feel to them. The hair is not strait with sheen; it is in braids, short, bangs, ponytails etc. The Groovy Girls try to fit into several different niche markets.

When I would work, we would always get phone calls about the Groovy Girls, “Is the new Groovy Girls in yet? Are there any new accessories? What is the size of your stock? When do you get more in?? Their high demand allowed us to buy more products of the brand. We didn’t advertise in any forms of media in Duluth. Our business thrived on loyal customers, word of mouth and the plethora of tourists every season.

We designated a ceiling to floor shelving area for the Groovy Girls. We didn’t have any specific tactic of organizing them by their race, gender or class. When I would stock them, I would first lay out their accessories and toys on different shelves (Tents, Bikes, Boats, etc). I would then fill the ‘sets’ I had made with different dolls. The sets themselves weren’t identifies as white only or asian only. I had all the dolls in a pile on the floor and would grab one randomly and set it on the shelf. Considering that there were less male dolls than females, I made sure there was an even amount of male dolls per shelf.

I was glad that our store chose a brand that embraced diversity. It grew to be extremely popular. Never once did I receive a phone call in my time there asking about Matell, Barbie, Ken, Kimmy and etc.


it's wonderful to know that independent toy stores still exist and thrive. most small toy stores have closed (pushed out by large chain stores). i would love to read a complementary post by a chain store employee to see if that worker would have similar freedoms in stocking. from what i've been told brands (like mattel) give strict orders to target and target stores enforce lots of doll segregation. thank you for sharing your experiences, the investigation continues...

Growing up one of my best friends worked at a privately small town toy store. It was such a great place. I used to spend a good amount of time visiting my friend while at work just so I could play with all of the unique toys! Although the internet provides many great toy stores, some of which were once like in my memories, nothing beats the actual store!