Editorial: A Parting Gift

By Mr. Joe Walker, Managing Editor of MuskegonTribune.com

My 7-year-old son and I stood in the parking of what used to be Toys R Us. We stared at the ghostly abandoned building feeling disappointed.

It used to be filled with bikes, trains, and video games. That all changed in 2018. The company announced it was closing its doors for good and on June 29 of that year they kept their word.

Two years later, only an outline of its iconic colorful sign remains. The lot used to be packed with cars this time of year, but now it’s littered with trash, ungroomed trees, and weeds.

“This is a disgrace!” my son exclaimed. “They’ve trashed this place! This is totally disrespectful.”

I imagine I would have said something similar had they closed when I was his age.

As an adult I’m far less likely to have an outburst or a tantrum. Understandably more mature, Toys R Us being a thing of the past still upsets me too.

A famed chain with stores around the country, we can’t ignore how important the local location was to our Muskegon community.

Many of us received birthday gifts, Christmas presents, and just-because playthings that were purchased there. And for some, Muskegon’s Toys R Us was their first employer.

As children it felt like a treat to enter “the biggest toy store there is” with our parents. That feeling carried over into our adult lives as we shared this sacred maze of dolls, action figures, RC vehicles and board games with children of our own.

I remember telling my son how excited his uncle Nelson and I were to go to the E. Sternberg Rd location to pick up The Legend of Zelda game we both pre-ordered. He and I were adults but not yet parents, and proudly children at heart.

My 7-year-old could grow to have big-kid moments of his own, just not inside the now empty building in front of us.

As we continued to stare at the ghostly abandoned building, and knowing the holiday shopping season was upon us, I couldn’t help wondering what their status would be today. Had they not closed in ’18, would the obviously troubled toy retailer have survived the effects of Covid-19?

Shortly before Toys R Us closed for good I went there one last time to purchase a deluxe Voltron playset, the one toy my son requested for his 5th birthday. It turned out to be a parting gift for both of us.


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