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My Toy Garden wades into specialty retail business

November 12, 2011

A teacher for 17 years, Carmel resident Janet Pillsbury believes in toys that are educational as well as fun. She opened My Toy Garden (301 E. Carmel Drive, 571-1234) in September to give shoppers more options.

The store aims to promote play in a variety of ways—which Pillsbury has dubbed the “Pathways of Wonder.” Merchandise is organized around seven themes: literacy, games, construction, puzzles and patterns, creative expression, sensory exploration and active play.

Several boxes are open, allowing customers to try before they buy—with or without kids in tow.

“Adults need to play, too,” said Pillsbury, 44.

Before launching the business, Pillsbury solicited feedback from potential customers through an online survey, which helped her shape her business plan—and ultimately land an SBA-backed bank loan. She and her engineer husband, Tim, also invested about $50,000 of their own money in the $140,000 startup.

OTB Toy Garden Janet Pillsbury hopes the personal touch and distinctive product mix will distinguish her educational toys. (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Like many small businesses, My Toy Garden faces competition from big-box retailers as well as other home-grown firms. But Pillsbury and her central Indiana peers hope their unusual products and personal touch draw customers.

She and five other independent retailers—in Carmel, Zionsville, Brownsburg and Franklin—joined forces to promote Neighborhood Toy Store Day Nov. 12.

“We can help each other build a strong business,” she said.•

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