In 2002, Darryl and Daria Boyer were starting an automotive tool store, when their son Mateyko, then five years old, asked if it could be a toy store. Not wanting to disappoint their little boy, they set up a shelf of toys. That turned into a bigger shelf, a wall, an aisle, two aisles, and eventually today’s 4,500 square foot plus an additional 7,000 square foot of warehouse space at the May Street location, and a new, smaller location on Bay Street.
Toy Sense has had a comprehensive website since 2013, with almost all of their inventory on it, which helped greatly during the pandemic. Toy Sense boasts one of the largest selections of puzzles in the country, and “early on during the lockdown, puzzles flew off the shelves,” says Daria. Puzzles take up an entire room and a wall at the May Street location, and there are many more in the warehouse. They even made a Facebook group called Toy Sense Puzzle Fanatics just for the puzzle fans in the city.
During the summer, Toy Sense sold a lot of outdoor toys, and are now noticing many early Christmas shoppers. In addition to selling locally, they have shipped toys and puzzles all over Canada and beyond - sometimes to countries as far away as New Zealand.
The Boyers employ a team of seven full-time and three part-time employees, and staff from the adjacent Auto Tool Sense also help when the toy store gets busy. “We were very fortunate,” Daria says. The people of Thunder Bay are happy to support local businesses, and the business has been doing well, despite the pandemic.
“It makes sense to shop at Toy Sense, because when the community supports us, we can support the community back,” Daria explains. The store recently donated $5,000 to the RFDA. “Shopping local really makes a difference,” she adds.
And the boy who started it all? Mateyko was working for the Edmonton Oilers when the pandemic hit, and came home to Thunder Bay in March. “So the little boy is working here now,” Daria says. He might want to go back to the sports industry when things go back to normal, she says, but in the meanwhile, there is definitely a place for him at the toy store he started.