What happened to the Monroe toy store?


Chances are you’ve been to a toy store or know someone who has during this Christmas shopping season.

Children and toys go together at Christmas like, well, Santa Claus and his reindeer. This week takes a look back at a former family toy store that closed when the family decided to branch out into sporting goods. This Twofer column also discusses this business.

The Monroe toy store opened in 1943 at 495 Monroe Ave., between Meigs and South Goodman streets. Founder Jack Schuster then added another store on Monroe and outlets in Midtown Plaza and Pittsford Plaza and Henrietta.

Schuster’s son Martin joined the company and eventually took over from his father as boss. The family also founded Marjax Sporting Goods, whose name derives from an approximate abbreviation and a combination of the first names of the father and son. For a while, the two companies offered cross-products, with Monroe Toy selling sporting goods and Marjax offering selections of toys.

Toys were phased out – and Monroe Toy Shop closed – when the Schusters tightened their focus. “We needed a clear picture of what exactly we stood for,” Martin Schuster told journalist Phil Ebersole in a 1982 article. Democrat and Chronicle story. “It is extremely difficult to sell a Barbie doll in front of a bar bell.”

Marjax became a regional and partly national channel before also closing.

Jack Schuster worked in a defense factory during WWII when he opened the first Monroe toy store with $ 50 worth of toys purchased on credit. The Henrietta store followed in 1959 on Jefferson Road, across from Southtown Plaza. The Pittsford Plaza store debuted in 1962, and the Midtown version arrived later that year.

A 1962 advertisement for the Pittsford Monroe Toy Shop described the store’s atmosphere as “Christmas all year round”. The store had murals by a “young artist from Rochester” and offered toys like “the new Barbie and Ken dolls”. (Barbie was introduced in 1959 and Ken in 1961.) The ad also mentioned a large electric train department.

Rochester’s Christopher Playford posted on Facebook that he got a lot from Monroe Toy Shop as a kid.

“Monroe Avenue was where (I guess) my parents got me my HO trains,” he wrote. “And they sold the route (of the train) that they had to my parents. This is also where I got some Matchbox vehicles. When I started making money… I went to the Pittsford Plaza store… and bought a few other Matchbox vehicles as well as plastic cars, boats and airplane models.

This was, of course, long before the era of electronic games that have captivated children ever since. Toys were simpler then. Another 1962 Monroe Toy Shop advertisement listed popular board games such as “Junior Auction”, “The Big Board” stock game, and “NBC-TV News Game with Chet Huntley”.

In addition to the stores, Jack Schuster also rented Monroe Toy departments from discount stores. In 1965, Monroe Toy Shop added sporting goods to its inventory. That same year, the family opened the first Johnny Jo store, which sold both toys and sporting goods.

The following decade saw the end of Monroe Toy Shop stores.

Sporting goods sales exploded in the 1970s and eclipsed toy sales by the end of the decade, Ebersole wrote in the 1982 story. The company name was changed to Marjax in 1975. and the Schuster family withdrew from toys completely in 1978. Marjax opened stores at Pittsford Plaza, Country Club Plaza on Fairport Road and the former Long Ridge Mall in Greece (since joined with the former Greece Towne Mall to become The Mall at Greece Ridge).

Monroe Toy Shop was no more. Allan Rayburn of Rochester was driving on Monroe Avenue last year when he spotted the old company sign there.

“Workers were changing a sign and looking at what appeared below,” he wrote on Facebook.

Meanwhile, Marjax thrived – for a while. Stores have opened in the Syracuse area, as well as in Niagara Falls, Elmira and Auburn. The company employed over 200 people in 1982. Ebersole wrote that the new stores had distinctive brown and yellow decor that would eventually be the norm for all Marjax stores.

Marjax developed further when the company purchased a nine-store sporting goods chain in Indiana in 1986. Like its then rival, Herman’s Sporting Goods, Marjax was “one of the chains of booming sporting goods in an industry still dominated by one-off stores. operations, ”wrote Robert Frick in a Democrat and Chronicle story.

Both had disappeared by the early 1990s. Marjax Enterprises was sold to a South Carolina-based company in 1993 and announced that its two remaining local stores – at that time at The Marketplace in Henrietta and at the now closed Irondequoit mall – would close permanently by the end of the year. Herman’s Sporting Goods had announced a week earlier its intention to close in the same way.

Remnants of what started as the Monroe Toy Shop are gone forever, except for that brief sighting Rayburn spotted last year.

Alan Morrell is a Rochester-based freelance writer.

About this feature

” What happened ? … “is a feature film that explores the favorite places of the past and revisits the headlines of yesteryear.

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