Nordica Toys – an amazing destination place filled with awe for kids of all ages – is celebrating its 40th year in business, and this is no ordinary feat.
Finding a nostalgic toy store with hard-to-find classics, seasonal finds, and trendy sensations that are all the rage is like rediscovering a dreamy toy land from childhood.
Located in the charming historic district at 7 Main Street in New Milford – across from the green – owner, Marie McCarthy, has a natural talent for stocking her shelves with toys that will surely inspire and delight.
Mayor Pete Bass said, “Marie has been a true gem in our business community. Her inventory of puzzles, games, and toys makes shopping for young people easy. She’s on my list whenever I shop for birthdays, holidays, and special events.”
Entering Nordica Toy Store is pure eye candy. Over 10,000 toys of all kinds – from floor to ceiling – line the shelves in a tiny, well-organized 1,000-square-foot space.
Science & Learning, Arts & Crafts, and Baby & Toddler are just some of the designated sections.
Jack Gilpin, a customer for 26 years, loves the great selection. He used to shop at the store for his three children and now buys toys for a grandchild and one on the way. “Today, I’m shopping for a friend’s newborn girl,” he shared, after he picked out a pink baby llama.
“Many of our grown customers who once shopped here with their parents also visit us with their own children. Now, we’re part of their family tradition. It’s truly neat to see and we love being a part of that,” shared Marie.
Although there’s a large assortment of mainstream brands – like Calico Critters, Melissa & Doug, and Thomas the Train – there’s also a wide selection of specialty toys.
“We carry a lot of local products – like Create a Castle from New Milford and Luke’s Toy Factory from Danbury – and American-made toys, too, like Aerobies frisbees and Spring Bok jigsaw puzzles,” she added.
Some of the store’s seasonal warm weather finds include whistle rockets, hula hoops, colorful kites, and gardening tools just the right size for little hands.
“Our environmentally friendly toys, like Green Toys, are made out of renewable recycled products. Wild Republic uses recycled water bottles for stuffed animal filling. Aurora makes stuffed animals out of recycled plastics,” she added.
Books galore surround the checkout area along with stress toys, gadgets, jewelry, and trinkets in all shapes and sizes.
Classic games like Candyland, old-fashioned Jack in the Boxes, wooden pull-toys, and cuddly teddy bears never get old.
Marie also enjoys seeing children come in with their own money to pick out toys they had their eyes on for quite some time and said their faces light up because they earned it.
Deana May, raised in New Milford, took her three sons to Nordica Toys to shop with their “star money.” Alden picked out a Beyblade Burst, Ashton chose some magic toys, and Alex eyed a handheld Space Invaders game and Pokémon cards.
Product selection and lots of inventory – no matter what time of the year – isn’t the only reason why Nordica Toys is successful.
Marie, who has owned the toy store over the past 19 years, is a kid at heart. She also knows “just the right toy” that will make a child’s imagination run wild.
“I enjoy helping customers when they ask for a specific toy and I know just where it is and get it for them. A customer just asked me if I have an Etch A Sketch, and I said, ‘yes, I do, and it’s over here.’”
Then & Now…
When asked why Marie decided to buy Nordica Toy Store almost 20 years ago from the original owners, she had a story to tell.
It all began four decades ago when the original owners, Christian and Aviva Trost – who came out of retirement after only one week – decided to open the toy store on Bank Street. The couple had extra toys and games stored in their garage, which was inventory that came from their furniture store they once owned in New Jersey.
What happened next, a few decades later, was a twist of fate. The opportunity to buy the store just fell into Marie’s lap.
Marie was introduced to the Trosts by a colleague. “After just 1.5 weeks of doing book-keeping for them, they told me how they no longer needed me because they wanted to sell the store. They asked me if I was interested, and I said, ‘yes.’” At this point, the store was already moved to its current location.
Marie was looking for a career change. She also had work experience in the food and retail industries. She knew right away that it was the right move to make.
To this day, Marie still carries wooden toys and European manufacturers that the original owners carried – like Schleich figures, Bruder trucks, and Playmobil.
Through the years, Marie also added her own personal touch. After just a few visits, she and her three employees will get to know your name and never forget a face.
Marie’s niece, Jane Swigart, works part-time at her store. She, too, is knowledgeable about toy product lines and makes helpful suggestions.
Little ones can shop around with a miniature shopping cart that’s always in the store. Children can also add toys they want to a special Nordica Toys birthday or holiday wish list.
Gift wrapping – always free – is offered all year long for birthday and holiday gift giving. Curbside pickup, online shopping, gift certificates in any amount, and a loyal customer discount of 10% for purchases over $30 are just some of the perks.
Looking back, Marie has no regrets about getting into the toy industry and loves what she does.
Although the business is on an upswing – which she thinks is due to an influx of new people in the area and that people realize how important it is to shop local – the industry itself has some challenges. “There are toy manufacturer shortages worldwide. I’m not even sure if some of them are still in business, like a company that makes sand toys in Denmark that I’m trying to reach.”
She attributes Nordica Toys’ success to her persistence, the sales staff, and – of course – her customers.
“Thank you for being my loyal customers. Without you coming in, we wouldn’t be in business.”
In return, Marie also gives back to the community and local charities. She and her husband have lived in New Milford for 46 years. Marie is from New Fairfield.
40th Anniversary Open House Celebration
Mark Your Calendar: Saturday, June 5th – 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Stop by and say, “Congratulations!”
Enter to Win: A treasure chest full of Green Toys!
Lorraine Ryan, a New Milford artist who makes puzzles and cards, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Christina Vrba, a New Milford author of Goodnight Connecticut, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Billy Steers, a Roxbury author & illustrator of the Tractor Mac series, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Nordica Toys (Open 7 Days a Week)
Monday through Friday – 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Saturday – 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday – 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Article & Photos: Alicia Sakal