Main Street Toy Shoppe, Owner Kim LaRocca
There’s a little store in downtown Franklin that’s always bursting with a friendly energy, a magical ambiance siphoned from a flurry of small footsteps and constant “oohs” and “aahs.” Its sweeping candy cane-striped awning is hard to miss from Main Street, if the eye wasn’t immediately drawn to the elaborately decorated windows that often find tiny noses pressed against them.
Owner Kim LaRocca, whose family took over the store just a few months ago, said the cheerful nature of the place is derived naturally.
“Just last week, I overhead a 5-year-old tell his dad, ‘This is the awesome-est, most incredible place I’ve ever been. Thank you for bringing me here!’” LaRocca said. “Giving back, talking with children about toys, seeing them play is extremely therapeutic for us. It’s almost necessary. Somehow I feel like this was a pre-planned part of our story.”
For LaRocca, Main Street Toy Shoppe is a large part of her son’s legacy. Since her family took over the small store, she’s worked daily to maintain and enhance the charm of one of Matt’s favorite stores.
Matt LaRocca was just 12 years old when he passed away in early 2011, after battling a brain stem tumor for 17 months. Those who knew him say he lived a full life, always giving, smiling and laughing. Now Kim—who just months ago was a part-time employee, not the proprietor—said she sees Matt’s story knitted throughout the specialty shop: in the bacon air fresheners and the squirrel underpants, in the selection of practical jokes and the books like The Encyclopedia of Immaturity and other gross boy stuff.
“Matt’s story plays a part in us taking over the store from our good friends, who started this business in 2005. When the opportunity arose to buy the store, we knew we wanted to be a part of one of downtown Franklin’s favorite family destinations and continue its presence on Main Street for years to come,” she said.
“And the selfish side of it is that our son loved this store, and he spent a lot of time here. I think he’d get a kick out of his mom owning this and be proud of the job I've done.”
Much of the 2,100 square-foot shop remains the same store Matt loved: nostalgic toys and vintage games fill every nook and cranny, from the perfectly decorated street windows to the back area that houses Corolle and Madame Alexander dolls, along with trendy girls purses and Calico Critters. There are Britain Civil War collectible soldiers next to arts ‘n’ crafts stuff, train collections in addition to Mayberry and Nashville Monopoly games; John Deere trinkets and Curious George stuffed animals.
“We have something for children of all ages, in addition to a large selection of retro toys. We specialize in the rare, hard-to- find ones,” LaRocca said. “We have old-time candy, tin robots, educational games, and chess sets, but we don’t just carry classic toys. At Main Street Toy Shoppe we look for quality toys that kids won’t be bored with right away. Our store is also a lot bigger than you think!”
There is a whole room that transports kids into a fantasy world of knights, heroes, wildlife and prehistoric times, and another that keeps little princesses occupied for hours at a time. But perhaps the shop’s biggest draw is the train table setup for toddlers to pretend they are the conductor for the day.
“We also have a baby and toddler room with all-natural wooden toys and educational activities to help them meet developmental milestones,” LaRocca said. “And if you aren’t sure exactly what to get we offer gift cards, something you can’t go wrong with.”
This Christmas season, the LaRoccas have partnered with Middle Tennessee’s Chapter of Make-A-Wish in their annual Season of Wishes holiday fundraising event. Throughout November and December, Main Street Toy Shoppe will attempt to raise $7,000 to fund a wish for a Williamson County child. There will be giveaways and other opportunities to contribute towards this community funded effort.
“Obviously our son plays a huge role in this partnership. I have an unquenchable desire to keep the ripple effect going. Matt’s ripple effect,” LaRocca said. “We are looking at this like we are a conduit—this is not something that we, in any way, can do on our own. It is important to us to keep his memory alive and his valiant fight remembered.”
And hopefully, come New Year’s, her windows on Main Street will be filled with little blue stars, Make-A-Wish stars representing those who gave.
To help Main Street Toy Shoppe with their mission, you may give $1 each time you checkout, or drop off your donation at the store. To learn more about the Make-A-Wish partnership, call 615-790-4TOY.
For information on the store, visit www.mainstreettoyshoppe.com for links to its Facebook and Twitter accounts, or stop by the store at 412 Main Street.
This is part of a series on merchants in Downtown Franklin. To read more, visit www.downtownfranklintn.com.
Posted on: 11/7/2012