Hopscotch Children's Store is an independent toy store located in Grand Rapids, MI, USA. We interviewed owner Emily Tobin to learn a little more about her story.
How did you begin working in the toy industry?
My husband and I both have backgrounds in marketing and we both worked in retail in
various capacities. The company we were working for filed for bankruptcy a couple of times and
was not doing too well. We were looking to make a change and we had always talked about
working for ourselves. I was on some type of mailing list and received an email saying that the
current Hopscotch store owners were looking to sell. It started off as a joke between my
husband and I, but we ended up speaking with the owners at the time and we realized that we
wanted to pursue acquiring the store. In fact, the company we had both been working for went
out of business, so we thought that this was our sign! The timing was perfect. We wanted to
make a change and we just had our son, who was 8 months old when we bought the store. So
we just fell into it, it was a new era in our lives!
What was the most challenging part about starting the business?
When we first bought Hopscotch, it had been more of a natural parenting-based store which
focused heavily on baby gear. There were a lot of natural and organic products for babies and
moms and the store featured a large clothing section. When Hopscotch first opened under the
original owners, these were still considered to be specialty products. But as a lot of these types
of products became mainstream, they no longer worked as well at Hopscotch. Eventually, the
owners decided to shift into toys and gifts but that area wasn't really where their passion was
and that’s when they decided to sell the business.
When we took over, we started with a blank slate. The previous owners gave us boxes of
catalogues and we went through them all and decided what to carry. This helped us work on
rebranding the store. We also really focused on e-commerce.
So overall, the most challenging part about starting our business was deciding what type of
store we would be and what to carry, redesigning the store’s interior, shifting the focus to digital
marketing, and optimizing the store for e-commerce. It worked out well that my husband and I
went into this without other jobs!