Soon there will be little need for Madison residents to drive to the Short Hills mall for toys, as Wyckoff's Tons of Toys will open its third location on Main Street.
The store looks almost finished although part-owner Chris Brinkofski says there is still some work to do, with a targeted opening in April.
"We decided to start at the front and work backwards," Brinkofski said.
As long as he and co-owner and Tons of Toys founder Gerry Maietta are working at the Madison location, they throw open the doors and are happy to answer questions from passers-by. Foot traffic has been great, said Brinkofski, and Madison shoppers' interests have been piqued.
Gerry and Robin Maietta started Tons of Toys in Wyckoff in 1989. In 2004, their son Ken took over the township store; five years ago, the Maiettas opened a second store in Chatham. Business at the Chatham store has been "OK," longtime employee Brinkofski said, but they were looking for a location to either supplement or eventually replace the Chatham store.
"(Madison is a) beautiful place, and we found a great location and a great landlord," Brinkofski said. "It was too good to pass up."
Seven years ago, Brinkofski was just looking for a part-time job with flexible hours. He started working at Tons of Toys because it was convenient, close to William Paterson University (where he was studying communications and business management), and the Maiettas let him work around his class schedule. Now, Brinkofski is part-owner of the company and has become a close friend of the family.
"Longevity, the amount of time I worked (at Tons of Toys) has something to do with it," he said. "But the Maiettas realized I worked hard for them, and they took care of me."
Brinkofski is looking forward to his new role as manager/part owner. He likes to be able to make his own schedule and appreciates the fact that the results of his hard work are tangible. But he admits the new responsibility is daunting.
"You're the reason the store does or doesn't do well," he said.
Brinkofski said operating a toy business does have its benefits.
For one, the products aren't greatly affected by economic downturns. "Toys are kind of recession-proof," he said while knocking on a wooden table. "Parents and grandparents will take away from themselves before they'll take away from their kids."
The greatest benefit?
"It's a nice environment to work in. The customers are usually in a pretty good mood; it's an easy product to work with; and I like to see the smiles on kids' faces."