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‘Time to evolve,’ as Port Moody toy shop embarks on huge expansion amidst pandemic

With more time on their hands, Tri-City residents look to games, puzzles and child’s toys to keep busy. Now Village Toy Shop has to increase in size to keep up with demand
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Teresa and Tom Johansson take a break from getting the new location for their Village Toy Shop ready for its opening this week.

A year ago Teresa Johansson was wondering whether going online would be enough to keep her Port Moody toy shop afloat through the COVID-10 pandemic.

This week, her Village Toy Shop is opening in a new, larger location in Newport Village, just down the block from the 800 sq. ft. space it occupied for 19 years.

Johansson said the move to boost the online presence of her shop to allow people to shop from home when public health restrictions closed the doors of many retail businesses proved to be an unexpected boon. So much so, online sales have since progressed from curbside pickups for locals to shipping toys as far as Nova Scotia and rural British Columbia.

“It was time to evolve,” Johansson said.

According to estimates by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, as many as 218,000 small businesses will close due to COVID-19.

Johansson said she and husband Tom were determined not to be amongst them. But instead of just surviving the pandemic, they’ve thrived.

Early on in the public health crisis, the Village Toy Shop couldn’t keep puzzles in stock, as people looked for ways to bide their time in self-imposed isolation. Even an 18,000-piece behemoth sold.

Offering online sales transformed their mom-and-pop operation that relied solely on walk-in customers to a 24-hour-seven-day-a-week operation.

It also means having on hand toys to match the variety that customers see at big box retailers like Toys “R” Us and Mastermind.

But, Johansson said, the cramped shop with limited storage space restricted their ability to expand their offerings.

It was last summer when she saw the empty storefront of a former women’s clothing boutique in the ground floor of Newport Village’s office block, Johansson said she had an “a-ha” moment. The 1,250-sq. ft. space means plenty of room to add more products like items for babies and new moms, as well as storage and the addition of an office.

“It was kind of a no-brainer for us,” Johansson said.

Since then, the couple have been working with their landlords to accommodate the transition, making renovations and even commissioned a mural by Port Moody artist Ladawne Shelstad, whose chalk murals on garage doors of her townhouse complex in the city’s Klahanie neighbourhood helped brighten moods during the pandemic’s earliest days.

With the doors of their new shop poised to open, the Johansson say they’re more excited than nervous about all the unknowns getting bigger can bring.

“It has been a whirlwind of a year,” Teresa Johansson said. “It’s nice to see something positive.”