Rob Miller began working for his mother, Pam, even before she opened her store.
When Rob was about 18 years old, he helped his mother merchandise what is now , the independent toy store that sits next to the on Medina Road.
That was October 1994. Fast forward 17 years, and now Rob is store manager and handles the day-to-day operations of the business that employs four. Pam is retired and occasionally comes to the store to have lunch with her son and see how things are going.
Pam, a North Canton resident, opened Thinker Toys to fill the void of stores that carried high-quality toys. She chose the Fairlawn location because she was excited by the prospects of the busy area and because of its accessibility to the north and south.
"It's an area people filter through," Rob Miller said.
Thinker Toys specializes in educational and specialty toys, including a wide variety of jigsaw puzzles, action figures, kids games and building toys. Its top sellers include Playmobil and Melissa & Doug.
"We sell products that last, not just in terms of quality, but ones that kids are going to continue to play with," Miller said.
If you are looking for dress up clothes, Thinker Toys sells them year around, not just for Halloween. If you are looking to experiement with science kits, this is the place to come. If you are looking for puppets, Thinker Toys carries the Folkmanis Puppets line.
"They are a big seller," said employee Shawna Noble. "I often sell them to match up with books. I sell them as baby shower gifts. I even have adults use them for puppet shows."
Business has suffered of late because of the turbulent economy, not because of competition. Thinker Toys holds its own despite the relative close location of Target, and .
It competes with the major retailers on purchasing power and not on the toys themselves.
"Target or Toys "R" Us will carry a few pieces of a particular line, but not as much as we do," Miller said.
In general, mass market buyers are able to pay less because they buy more product. And because of that, there have been occassions when Miller has had to stop selling a particular line of toys because a major retailer such as Target has started selling the same line. It happens when a manufacturer only makes about six pieces total.
"It erodes consumer trust in me because they look at the price and I may sell it for almost twice the price." So, he takes it off the shelves.
"If thousands of little stores like us all bought together, that would be great purchasing power," Miller said.