I love talking about retro video games and how they have changed my life. Some of the memories have triggered a lot of happiness and oh man did that really happen for not only me but a lot of other people. However I need step back to talk about something that was close to my heart.
Many years ago, there was a toy store called Children’s Palace in West Des Moines, Iowa that was the main source for all of our Atari games…with the exception of Sears, because everyone loved shopping at Sears. I still even remember the day I went to go buy a Vectrex but they sold out and never got them back again. SERIOUSLY? It was a pretty good store. But just down the street, something else opened up. A beautiful store all by itself with a huge star on the top of the sign. We had never seen anything like that in West Des Moines. No, it wasn’t a Walmart, it was a Toys “R” Us.
This store had it all! New squirt guns that looked exactly like Uzis, the latest Star Wars figures, Transformers, biggest Lego collection I have ever seen, and most importantly video games. Oh man, there was one row that I remembered that had all games behind glass and you had to take a ticket to the register and pay, then you had to go to a security booth/counter that had a stack of the games all across the wall. This was the greatest collection of video games ever! At the time that they opened, they had the best of the best. Nintendo, Sega, Collecovision and a few others. I always kept going there and asking to try their game systems. In fact the memory just popped up of the video game cabinet that you could purchase for $149 and put a tv and Nintendo system in it. It was awesome! In fact, this store was so awesome that it forced Children’s Palace to close. Well played sir!
When I was in high school, I decided to try to work there as well. But what department could I work in? I knew nothing about bikes and hated to deal with dolls. Ok, I guess I’ll work in video games :). So yeah, I did that and worked with the Legos as well. Unfortunately, at the time, Star Wars Legos didn’t really exist. But that’s ok I’m not bitter. But I only ended up working there for only three months. It’s didn’t last long because I wanted to have the summer to hang with my best friend that I unfortunately don’t have contact with anymore.
But I still enjoyed going to Toys “R” Us. It was the store where I got my very first NES system. Yes, everyone these days has probably owned it more than once :). But the game choices for Toys R Us were awesome. They were able to not only get the first dibs on the games, but they would also have enough that they could supply everyone who had a NES in town. Although there was that one day when I thought that they were drunk or high when they priced Super Mario Brothers 3 at $75. SERIOUSLY?!?!?!? Well, it had to happen sooner or later,
But later on, a store opened called Babbages and they were supposed to be the new outlet for my games. But I said no!. I wanted Toys “R” Us to be my main “Videogame Headquarters.” And I was forever faithful to them. With my Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, Playstation 1 and 3 (I actually camped out at Walmart for the Playstation 2 at midnight). In fact, I was actually waiting in line at midnight for when they released the newest Star Wars toys for the Re-release and for all the new movies. I was addicted to the Legos that they started to release. I was never into the actual action figures but for the Lego sets. But anyway.
The time changed and the technology got better, and I kept visiting the store. For the longest time, they had a setup for the Playstation 2, Xbox and Nintendo 64. And I…Oh crap, I forgot that I purchased my very first Game Boy and Game Boy Advance there too. Oh geez the memories are really coming back to me now. It was a safe haven for all things nerd and geeky. I loved it. And some of their sales were awesome as well as the clearances. I picked up Batman for the NES for $10 way back then. And then…. Oh wait, I forgot about the Sega Dreamcast!!! I bought everything there for the Dreamcast. I got really sweet deals. Man this is really depressing.
But as time changed, I grew older and now have a daughter that means everything to me. And I loved taking her to the store and watching her eyes light up and I tried to buy her what I could. I even remember going to Babies “R” Us with her mother because we ended up getting a lot of gifts from there. And they were of great quality. But being able to buy her a doll or a board games was actually a feel good moment for me. I did hate the phase she went through where she always wanted to buy fake cell phones and to this day I have no idea what her fascination is with cash registers were. But she did get some from there too. Weird. But I also remembered going there with my daughter during the special Lego build days and getting free mini lego sets for her and myself. It really was a father/daughter moment that I won’t forget.
So jumping ahead to 2017-2018. There were rumors that Toys “R” Us was running into financial trouble and they might have to file Bankruptcy. I was only told this as it was a rumor. But recently, that rumor became a reality and there was nothing that they could do to save the company. So they started to close some of the stores around the US. So begins the clearance blowout. It was really sad to hear. But I was later told that there were some stores that were going to be saved. Two days after I heard this, the one of the two Toys “R” Us stores in the Des Moines area put the Store Closing sign on the wall. I couldn’t believe it. But it was happening. So I started to go to the store for a while to basically scout out the Legos and video games. For the longest time, they didn’t lower the prices much. It was only at 10%. But I was still buying Legos. Damn shame I got rid of all of the Legos from the previous years. I had a lot :(. In the end, I did pick up a few good deals in the video game area. I found a few Pops that were not a bad deal either. I remember getting some Lego Dimensions for next to nothing. Then they closed and there was only one store in Des Moines area left that I was told that they were actually going to keep open.
But that didn’t happen. The sign went up that they were closing too and this was the final curtain for Toys “R” Us in Des Moines. So I did the same thing that I did with the south side store. But I think they were catching up on the economy idea and actually started to add percentages to the items, but jacked up the prices. For example, they had 60 copies of Grand Theft Auto V and priced it to the $59 and started with the 10%. By the time last week, the game was still $25 after it was 70% off. Yes, if you look on Ebay and Amazon, you can get it cheaper. But in the end, I picked up that for $12, WWE18 for $12, Geometry Wars for $6, Mafia III for $6, Knack for $8 and Sonic Forces for $12. But there were some other things that I ended up getting also. There was a game call Dropmix from Harmonix that was originally $100, but I purchased for $12. I also got a handful of Star Wars stuff and even some Nerf.
It unfortunately was a giant garage sale. And the people there were reckless when shopping. I saw two people fighting over the last Landspeeder that kids can ride that went for $100. Seriously that was a steal. But the thing is , we live in a really messed up world where someones demise is profit for others. And I am not talking about buying cheap and selling on Ebay. That is something that I will NOT do.
But today is the final day of a big part of a lot of peoples lives from the 80’s in Des Moines. We grew up seeing the cheesy ads during the Saturday morning cartoon block. We waited every Sunday for the newspaper ad to come out, and we thought it was the best piece of mail to come to us when the gigantic Christmas catalog came out. I even remember when I was hosting trivia at a premiere of Star Wars Episode I at one of the biggest theaters in Iowa. I was walking down the aisle in my Jedi costume and behind me was Geoffrey wearing a giant Darth Vader helmet and we got tons of prizes donated from the store. As stupid as it sounds, I even took a date there and we rode around on mini bikes through the aisles. Yeah we took that from a really bad Christina Applegate movie. Best not to ask 🙂
This photo was found on Facebook
My now eleven year old daughter called me yesterday and asked if we can go to Toys “R” Us one more time. I told her that today is the last day and they really don’t have anything left. It is sad but very true. I’d be surprised if I walked in right now and found something of value/want. She isn’t into action figures or dolls. She is more of an arts and crafts person and loves Legos. And the only other thing they have is Xbox 360 games which is pointless since I don’t have one. I’ll take her to Target or Walmart but it is a little sad that my parents can’t get her gift cards there anymore. It was like winning the lottery when she opened the birthday card. For a short while, she got to feel what it was like to be a Toys “R” Us Kid.
The point is, there is now a big part of our childhood that will actually be missed. And some people say that this is the death of a giant giraffe. This is not his death though, this is retirement. He served us for a long time and did a very good job. But now the shelves are blocked off with caution tape and there is nothing left in the store but empty shelves. It really is a sad moment. But the one thing I will always be able to tell my daughter is, ” I will always be a Toys “R” Us Kid.” Thank you Geoffrey, you will be missed.
Keep Calm and Insert Coin