When Becky Lancaster purchased the iconic stone building in 2016 that’s home to the Northern Michigan toy store, Stoney Cabin Toys, she planned to renovate and preserve the charm of the Elk Rapids shop. What she didn’t plan was the joy she’d find in being a small-town toy retailer.
Featured in the December 2020 issue of Traverse. Subscribe.
Built in 1935, the stone building has been inhabited by various businesses, including two other toy stores over the years. Generations of local and seasonal families have walked through the front door in search of gifts and games for more than 25 years; children now accompanying their parents and grandparents who share fond memories. When Becky bought the shop, she initially didn’t intend to continue selling toys, but after listening to the community, she decided to preserve the joyful legacy, allowing herself and her customers to discover the store’s magic.
As an independent specialty toy shop, you offer a lot of items you can’t find at a box store.
Because I’m so limited in space, I don’t carry large or licensed lines of toys like big box store and Amazon do. I look for unique no-battery games and kid-powered toys. Each year, I strive to offer new selections for imaginative play; art, books, puzzles, engineering-style kits, summer fun and some silly stuff to balance the experience.
What are some of the perks of shopping at a small-town toy shop?
It’s all about relationships. I enjoy speaking with people about the people they’re buying for, listening to kids discuss what they’re attracted to and offering items I sense will meet the interest of customers, from 1 to 99 years of age.
What moments make your job so special?
Moments with kids are often just priceless. It’s a happy place to be and work. The excitement they feel just to come in the door, the face that lights up when a purchase is special, the confidence earned with math lessons on counting out their own money and the gratitude expressed as we say goodbye is what I get to call a day at the office. This year with COVID-19 restrictions, it was clearly a big deal for kids to shop in a toy store or any store!
What’s the holiday season like at Stoney Cabin?
I love to decorate for the seasons. I am a staunch observer of Thanksgiving, so I never decorate for Christmas or play holiday tunes until after the pumpkin pie! We always offer gift wrapping and shipping if needed. Depending on downtown activities this year, it may be a bit quieter. I always serve cookies from The Flour Pot Bakery in Elk Rapids for special occasions, and holiday sweaters are my personal decor to enhance the spirit.
Is there anything you want to share with our readers?
It’s going to be a difficult year ahead for all small retailers. I sincerely hope local businesses of all kinds can hang on, as our communities need us … and we need them.
Find holiday fun and lots of local shopping ideas in the free 2020 MyNorth Holidays below; get this publication for free in print when you subscribe to Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine.