Bringing families together with toys

Apr 8, 2021 | Lake Arrowhead

By Mary-Justine Lanyon

As children, we all spent a lot of time playing with toys. Sandra Neumann continued that pastime after high school, into college and beyond with Mr. G’s For Toys.

Initially, Neumann worked part-time in the toy department. Then, when Mr. G’s opened some gift stores, she started on that side, spending time in the stores in Santa Ana, Redondo Beach and Palm Springs. Her next step up was as the gift buyer and then as the toy buyer as well.

“My reaction was, ‘Wow – toys are fun! They make you happy. I love toys.’”

With owner Stanley Goldenberg’s recent retirement, Neumann has taken over the shop, concentrating on the Lake Arrowhead location and closing the Palm Springs and Los Angeles stores.

“This store (Lake Arrowhead) has always been the one store that has been a neighborhood,” Neumann said.

“Before, I was so busy with all three stores, I didn’t get to do it justice. I’m glad I can spend time here now. I hope we’ll get back to how we started – the little neighborhood toy store which is extinct.”

She is looking forward to doing some fun community events once COVID restrictions have eased. Ideas that come to mind are story times, craft projects, game nights.

“My employees love to dress up. Maybe we’ll do that once a month, just for fun.”

Neumann was aspiring to a somewhat smaller space in Lake Arrowhead Village, which meshed well with The Grapevine’s desire to expand. What Mr. G’s will be losing will be some of the gift items that have been added in recent years. “We’ll concentrate on toys only with some souvenirs.”

One thing Neumann is adding is more puzzles from two new companies – adding more variety to an already large selection.

Asked about trends in toys, Neumann said that action figures have always been huge. And Beanie babies were “huge forever – probably the biggest craze.” Then, she noted, “there was the slime craze, which parents didn’t love but kids did.”

One of the latest crazes are the endless bubble wrap popping devices like Pop’d.

“We didn’t have social media to show us what’s going to be hot,” Neumann said. “We had to guess. Now someone plays with something on TikTok and it’s the rage.”

At Mr. G’s For Toys, Neumann said, “we concentrate on the tried and true: Play-Doh, Hot Wheels, Barbie, books and crafts.”

But their biggest sellers, she noted, are board games and puzzles. “Our hope is people will come up to visit and spend quality time in their cabins at night, putting puzzles together, playing games.”

Her own family, Neumann said, has played more games during the pandemic. Playing a game together makes you talk to each other – something she relishes. At Christmas, they played Carcassonne, a strategy tile-laying game inspired by the medieval fortress city of the same name in France. Her family also likes to play Rummikub.

“It’s all about family. I think COVID helped that,” she said. “It was a tragedy for many families but also brought a lot of people together.”

On the shelves at Mr. G’s For Toys families will find lots of games for younger children – something Neumann thinks is important. “Some don’t know how to lose, how to cooperate. And a lot of the newer games won’t bore the parents so much!”

The staff at Mr. G’s, Neumann said, is learning some of the newer games so they can explain them to customers. “There are some obscure companies with cool games but people don’t recognize their names.” That’s where the staff comes in, sharing their excitement over some of these new products.

What about chess? Did The Queen’s Gambit (the series on Netflix) make chess sets more popular? Absolutely, was Neumann’s answer. In fact, she brought in a set called Story Time Chess that is designed to teach chess to really young children. It comes with a storybook with a story for each chess piece, which makes it easier for the player to remember how the horse moves or why the king only moves one space.

Post-COVID, Neumann would like to put out samples of some games, inviting people to try them out.
“First we have to get the store shrunk, get through COVID and get back to being together,” Neumann said. Then she can act on the plans she has been developing over the past year.

She has been working on those plans with Brittany Black, the store’s manager. Black started working at Mr. G’s in Lake Arrowhead Village part-time two years ago.

“She stepped up and opened us up after the COVID restrictions relaxed a bit,” Neumann said. “Brittany got everything clean.”

Mr. G’s For Toys is located in Lake Arrowhead Village next to The Grapevine. Follow them on Instagram at @mrgsfortoys_lake_arrowhead. Call them at (909) 337-7457. They are open seven days a week.



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