Animations on Cedar Lane to Close After Ten Years
Owner cites economy, Internet as main reasons for dwindling sales
For the last decade, customers in search of quality-crafted and unique children's gifts could count on the merchandise inside Animations Toy Store on Cedar Lane.
But citing a change in shopping habits and competition from the online merchants, the store's owner said it has become increasingly difficult during the last few years to sustain a profitable business. The store will close its doors for good on Thursday.
A WALK-IN TOYBOX
Upon walking into Animations, adults and their little ones were transported into a world full of bright-colored play things, smiling puppets, entertaining books and fun-filled games – with their sole purpose being to bring a smile to a child's face.
Along with the store's handcrafted items, party favors and gift baskets, Animations had products for every occasion and for all ages. The store also carried toys that were eco-friendly and made in the USA.
Owner Leanna Halbrecht placed a high priority on selecting items that encouraged creativity and imagination.
"We really started out wanting to offer more hand-crafted, unusual gift items for children but found that there wasn't a great enough selection at reasonable prices, so there wasn't really a market for it," Halbrecht said. "And the few toys that we carried seemed to be in very big demand, so we kind of built on that. So here we have more of a toy store than a gift store. It kind of evolved."
THE FINAL WEEK
On Dec. 31, a status update on Animation's Facebook page stated that the store would be closing on Jan. 6, with all inventory priced at 25 percent off. When the store opened on Sunday morning after a holiday break, a constant stream of customers were seen coming and going, many with big boxes tucked under their arms and packed plastic shopping bags hanging from their fingertips.
Colored paper signs were taped to the storefront's windows announcing 25 to 40 percent off all merchandise.
In the Facebook announcement and on a sheet of paper taped to the storefront window, Halbrecht said that it's with "much sadness" that the business is closing its doors.
"We have made every effort to continue, but the economy, changing times and the effect of the Internet have made it impossible to compete and maintain a small retail store," read the statement. "We have loved serving the community and getting to know so many of you!"
The shelves were considerably emptier around closing time Sunday than in the morning, but the constant stream of customers remained.
A LOSS FOR CEDAR LANE
Animations recently was part of a "Shop the Lane" promotion that ran from Nov. 12 through Dec. 1. Eleven Cedar Lane businesses collaborated on a shopping event to increase foot traffic into their businesses.
During the promotion, customers who shopped at Animations received 15 percent off their total purchase. In an interview after the promotion ended, Halbrecht said she saw an increase in business.
"This promotion was wonderful in terms of pulling the community together and raising awareness about the importance of shopping local, and I think it was successful," she said on Dec. 21. "It brought people in, and the community loved the idea."
Unfortunately, the temporary boost in sales wasn't enough to keep the store going.
Halbrecht noticed a drop in sales a couple years ago when the recession first started. And a couple months back, she made the painful decision to close down her business at the start of the New Year.
"I had been thinking about it, and I realized that this was not going to work, and I can't be very optimistic of the economy turning around and the Internet certainly isn't going away," she said.
Halbrecht declined to say if she thought Teaneck was conducive to running a small business.
Teaneck General Store owner Bruce Prince said he was saddened to not only see Animations close, but also to see Cedar Lane lose a "dedicated" business owner. Prince and Halbrecht had worked together on the "Shop the Lane" promotion.
"Animations' closing is a major loss to the Lane," Prince said. "Leanna was a champion for shopping locally and how that benefits the community. She had a local spirit and a local synergy that will be greatly missed."
Halbrecht said she hasn't thought about what she'll do after Jan. 6, but she said she'll miss seeing the many customers she's gotten to know since opening the store in 2001.
"I thank all my customers for their support and friendship," she said. "I've gotten to know so many people in the community, and that's been wonderful."
Lauren Koslow of Tenafly has been a customer at Animations for the past few years. She said she was disappointed to hear of the store's closing.
"[Halbrecht] had great toys and games and was always able to recommend age-appropriate gifts," Koslow said. "She provided customer service that you can't get at a big box store. I am really sorry to see her go; small stores are just unable to compete these days."