Hyattsville’s Toy Story

Toy Story

Leni Lewis, retail manager for Franklin’s Restaurant, Brewery & General Store, is also known as the store’s “retail goddess,” which is her actual title listed on the menu.

In addition to picking out the ceiling-high kitchen gadgets, unique gifts, Crabtree & Evelyn bath goodies, and countless unusual knick-knacks, she’s also in charge of seeking out and purchasing all the cool toys you can find throughout the store. As you might expect, Lewis is quirky and fun to talk with.

Since 1979, Lewis has been working in the toy industry. While a part-timer at a craft store in a mall in Columbia, Md., the store’s owner also owned a toy store in the same mall. The toy store was an obvious next move for Lewis and it was there that she met Mike Franklin, who she says was a wonderful salesman.

It was only natural that when Franklin opened up his Hyattsville restaurant in 1992 he would bring on Lewis as his retail manager. Since then, the two have been work colleagues going to toy shows together and, as she says, “buying what we like.”

When asked what she loves about working in the toy industry, Lewis said, “I love the creative design aspect of retail and the toy industry taps into that.”

Lewis said that it’s hard to say what the hottest-selling toys are at Franklin’s since that depends on the age group. This time of year, she noted there is an upswing in travel games and puzzles. “During the summer months people get together as a family at the beach, or they’re traveling in the car, or on an airplane, and they are looking for a toy that they can bring along,” she said.

So what toys did she recommend at Franklin’s? In stock now are two-foot, self-inflatable bouncy balls as well as big Frisbees made of squishy spandex material that measure over three feet in circumference.

As you might imagine, the toys you can find at Franklin’s aren’t the kinds of things you might find at Toys R Us. As Lewis describes, they are “specialty toys.”

Toy purchasing for retail stores typically peaks after Christmas and slows down in June and July, but since the recent expansion, Lewis is already planning an order this month and says things are really buzzing.

“We love what we do and we’re pretty darn good at it,” she said.

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