Widgets Magazine

Alex Dank, Third Generation in the Toy Business, on Toys, the North Fork & his Love Lane Toy Shop

Q: How did you get into the toy business? A: My parents and grandfather used to manufacture toys, in Brooklyn, and right out of college, I thought it was a natural path for me to open a store, since we had so many connections in the toy business.  This was 20 years ago.

Q: Your parents and grandfather made toys? That’s cool. Do you have any particular memories of the business?

A: As a kid, me and my Dad and Grandfather would distribute toys to the distributer in Brooklyn. Once my dad got into the toy business, when he was about my age, he started manufacturing toys in China. I would go to China, go to the factory, participate in developing the toys in Hong Kong.

Back in the day my Dad designed and made the Marilyn Monroe doll, he designed and made all the M.A.S.H. action figures for the TV show.

I was more interested in the retail end; my soul is more of a hometown guy that wants to be with his family. That’s hard to do when you’re traveling so much. I love dealing with people, you never know who is going to walk in that door. I deal with children all day, and grandmas and grandpas, moms and dads. I love it.

Q: Do you have a favorite toy?

A: I really like Duncan Yo-Yo. I love playing legos with my son and daughter. I love building stuff.

Q: Your favorite toy is a Duncan Yo-Yo? Can you do any tricks? Why a Duncan?

A: My favorite trick to do is Walk the Dog. I can that and Around the World.

Duncans have been around forever, they just work the best. It’s just one of those things that stays the same, which is unusual. In the toy business you’re competing with all the computers and video games. Things are always changing, trying to keep up.

This year, especially, board games are selling particularly well. I think it’s a reaction to all the iPads and electronic games. I just reordered another 50 board games because we sold so many over the weekend.

Q: Do you have a favorite board game?

A: I like Jenga, I like Twister. Risk has been very popular for the older kids, Battleship too.

Q: Love Lane toys is fairly new; where did you start 20 years ago?

A: My first toy store was in Massapequa Park, and then we moved further out on the island in Sayville, opening a second store. After some time Sayville got so successful it was better to have just one store, so we shut down Massapequa Park.

I ran Sayville for about 15 years. Then unfortunately, in our 14th year of doing business, Target opened up around the corner.

Q: Big box stores can be such a killer for Main St. businesses. How did you survive?

A: At that time I thought I should try pop up toy stores in resort areas, and we did ok with a summer store in West Hampton Beach. But I always wanted to go back to a year round store in a nice, family community, and when this Love Lane location became available, I thought it was perfect. So I opened a year ago.

It’s been great; the community is really supportive. We have year round business, at Christmas time the locals really support us.

Q: What makes a great toy store?

A: Our selection, our convenience and our customer service. We have a huge range--educational toys, wooden toys, high quality toys. Much nicer toys than in the bigger stores.  But just because everything’s high quality, not everything’s expensive. We have a huge price range, from $2 to $200.

I bring in product lines that are not sold in the big stores, the ones only sold through specialty shops. For example, I have a wooden baby line made in France, beautiful wooden puzzles, wooden blocks.  I have a line of really nice science toys. We have beautiful craft kits—bracelets, headband sets, stuff that really appeals to girls 8-12.

But we also carry the classics—Matchbox toys, Hot Wheels, Barbies—there we’re offering the convenience.

Customer service is really important to me. We assemble for free, gift wrap for free, deliver for free. The world is hard enough as it is. When someone comes in my store I want to make it a pleasurable experience

Q: You’ve run toy stores in Massapequa Park, Sayville, West Hampton Beach; is there anything you really like about being on the North Fork?

A:  I always wanted to have a store out here, because I have two children and I would bring the apple and pumpkin picking. One nice thing about Love Lane is that we’re a little family of shopkeepers; we all try to carry different products, work together—that’s been nice.

Running a business on the North Fork, it’s nice that you have the summer tourists, then you have apple season, then you have pumpkin season, then Christmas—you have six or seven months of people really thinking about the North Fork. Lots of different types of people coming here to shop.

Q: Do you do any special events during the year?

A: Every year we do one special event. This year we have caroling in front of the store for the whole month of December on Saturday & Sunday. On December 12th  we’re going to do decorate your own ornaments, where we put out a table and give out free ornaments and decorations for kids to make their own, from 11 am – 3 pm. We like to give back.

Q: You’re third generation in the toy business. Will there be a fourth?

A: I think it’s too soon to tell if there will be another generation in the toy business. My son is very into computers and architecture; my daughter is very athletic. I wasn’t forced into this, and I just want them to do whatever they want to.