Every nook and cranny at Building Blocks Toy Store in Lake View is packed with enough colorful toys and games to make your inner-child squeal with joy, but it wasn’t long ago that this neighborhood staple was in danger of going under.
Located at 3306 N. Lincoln Ave, the toy store is still recovering from major flood during the summer caused by a broken pipe leading to a major sewer line. Katherine McHenry, owner of the now 16-year-old store, says it was a big blow to the niche store, and she’s still working to get everything back to normal.
“We did have a flood this summer, and we’re just trying to get back to that space,” McHenry said. “We’re going to repair the floor in January, and that’ll be the last of the repairs… After we had that incident, we did a sidewalk sale and sold whatever wasn’t destroyed but couldn’t be resold in the store. That was really just a tiny bite of the big apple.”
"They do a lot for people in need in our neighborhoods, and it’s important that we continue to donate back to our local community.”
McHenry said the store literally didn’t have the space in their dumpsters for any more toys, and what they were able to salvage was sold for just pennies on the dollar.
However, with help from the community, Building Blocks bounced back. McHenry said word of the store’s flood went viral, causing countless community members to help by purchasing the salvageable toys. Combined with a string of “aggressive” sales, the store is back on track, and just in time for the holiday season.
While shoppers may be pounding on Best Buy’s door on Black Friday, McHenry hopes locals won’t forget about Building Blocks and its role in the neighborhood.
“We just turned 16-years-old, and we’ve been a successful and big part of this community,” McHenry said. “…It’s hard for a store like ours to go up against the big box stores who are selling things at cost just to get people in the door. We don’t compete in that way.”
In response to door-busing deals, McHenry is organizing a different way of giving back. This Saturday happens to be Neighborhood Toy Store Day, and Building Blocks is pulling out all the stops for the third year in a row.
Between the face paintings, temporary tattoos, snacks, giveaways and an appearance by the storybook character Olivia the Piglet, McHenry wants to show residents the benefit of having a local toy store. And even after a financially devastating flood, Building Blocks is using the event to make a change in the community.
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“We’re also going to donate a percentage of our sales to The Association House,” McHenry said. “They do a lot for people in need in our neighborhoods, and it’s important that we continue to donate back to our local community.”
Based in Humboldt Park, The Association House is an organization that provides programs, services and assistance to families in need to help them gain independence. McHenry plans to host an identical party at the stores second location in Wicker Park, but with Sesame Street’s Elmo as the special guest.
To check out the store’s unique inventory, shop online or get more information about the National Toy Store Day event, visit Building Blocks Toy Store’s website.