Q&A with Roy Stevenson, Owner of Stevenson’s Toys

Image result for roy stevenson stevenson's toysPhoto: Richard Lewin

On Saturday, December 1st, the Museum is hosting a holiday Shopping Night event at Stevenson’s Toys in East Hampton and Southampton. Stevenson’s has gifts for children of all ages and has even curated a special list so you can gift your child his or her favorite item from CMEE! It was an honor to chat with Mr. Stevenson before the special evening.

Stevenson’s Toys & Games was founded in 2001 but its roots go back more than 100 years. What can you tell us about the store’s history and how did you get involved?
When I was a boy growing up in Southampton, there was a fabulous toy store called Lillywhite’s, run by a wonderful couple, (Mr. and Mrs. Lillywhite, of course) and it was my favorite place.  There was nothing better than when your parents would give you a couple of dollars and you could go to Lillywhite’s to pick something out.  The place was also overflowing, and part of the fun was sifting through the shelves to find the best thing.  Mr. and Mrs. Lillywhite were wonderful, but if you got too noisy or rambunctious, they would definitely threaten to tell your parents, if not pinch your ear – how times have changed! Back in 2000, I was growing tired of the constant travel that the career I had pursued since college required and I wanted to settle down in Southampton to be more available for my wife and kids.  Lillywhite’s was for sale and though I had no experience in retail, I thought any business that had lasted for 100 years had to have something going for it. Plus, what could be more fun than a toy store?  So, my wife, Polly, and I bought the store, but Susan Lillywhite was reluctant to part with the Lilywhite’s name. After several hilarious family meals with Polly and my kids discussing a catchy new name for the store, we finally settled on Stevenson’s.

What are some of your holiday best sellers? Is there a particular toy that promotes learning through play that you highly recommend?
Every holiday there seems to be certain toys that become the ‘craze’ – supplies run short and prices start to escalate.  Last year it was Fingerlings, this year the craze hasn’t really identified itself.  LOL dolls are very popular with 5-8 year old girls. Anything slime was hot during the summer.  Lego is perennially popular with boys and in recent years Lego has finally figured out how to interest girls with their Lego Friends series.

My favorites this year include the Intelliglobe by Replogle, an interactive globe that is provides geographical information and asks and answers questions posed by the child.  Thames and Kosmos makes some fantastic science kits including their Chemistry series and more topical kits that teach about Global Warming, Wind Power, Coding, and Crystals.  The Quadrilla series by Hape is also fantastic for kids 4+ – each kit includes an assortment of wooden blocks and tracks that the child assembles to form a marble maze in the process learning about cause and effect and spatial recognition.

For eleven years, Dan’s Paper has named Stevenson’s as “The Best of Best Toy Store.” What do you think makes Stevenson’s the best toy store on the East End?
First and foremost, it’s our staff.  We really try to have a staff of friendly people who can help our customers select just the perfect  toy.  The free gift wrapping is also certainly appreciated.  And I think we are just the right size; we are large enough to have an exceptional selection not only of the products people are looking for, but also to surprise our customers with some items they aren’t familiar with.  At the same time, we’re small enough that kids can wander around our stores and enjoy the search for the cool thing, just as I did when I was a boy.  And lastly, while shopping on the internet is only going to continue to grow, there’s something irreplaceable about the experience of bringing a child to a toy store and sharing the fun time and being able to pick up and examine all the various products.

What was your favorite toy as a kid?
My godfather gave me a battery operated automobile that you could ride in when I was about 5 years old.  It was called a Stutz Bearcat and it was red – back then motorized ride-ons were not nearly as common as they are now, and I was thoroughly amazed by that toy.  I’ve forgotten a lot of things over the years, but I’ll never forget that car!  It’s probably the reason we have such a great selection of battery powered vehicles for kids and teens at the store today!

Translate »