Bethany Clough

Toys R Us is history, but here are five other places to shop for kids in Fresno

The Toys R Us store at 3520 W. Shaw Ave. is midway through its going-out-of-business sale.
The Toys R Us store at 3520 W. Shaw Ave. is midway through its going-out-of-business sale. bclough@fresnobee.com

Toys R Us as we know it is history.

The West Shaw Avenue Toys R Us store is midway through a going-out-of-business sale, part of a wave of 182 stores the retailer began closing earlier this year.

Thursday the company officially began the process that will close all its 800 stores, though there is an effort underway to sell 200 of them. The company is bankrupt, saddled with more than $5 billion in debt. It is also closing all 100 of its stores in the United Kingdom.

Even if some American stores are sold, Toys R Us will never be the same.

The Toys R Us stores in Clovis and Visalia will either close or be sold, along with the Babies R Us store in Fresno that the company also owns.

The Toys R Us at 3520 W. Shaw Ave. is neck deep in its going-out-of-business sale, with items marked down between 30 percent and 50 percent.

It has all the chaos that dying stores usually do. The baby furniture department is picked clean, but other shelves are fully stocked. Beneath the price checker is a pile of toys that customers have scanned and rejected. Papers and empty Duracell boxes litter the floor. At the checkout counter, a handful of personalized polar bear Christmas ornaments bearing names like Jack and Gavin have fallen to the floor, with neither customers nor staffers stopping to pick them up.

Toys R Us Christmas ornaments polar bear
These Christmas ornaments, polar bears wearing scarves and hats and bearing children's names, have fallen to the floor near the checkout at the West Shaw Avenue Toys R Us during its going-out-of-business sale. Bethany Clough bclough@fresnobee.com

Employees are telling customers the store will be open until April 15, though it could close earlier if it runs out of merchandise. Everything is for sale, including the shelving and equipment.

Shoppers likely already know which big-box stores to turn to if all Toys R Us stores close. Competition from Target, Walmart, Amazon and other online retailers has affected Toys R Us for years.

But there are other stores in the Fresno-Clovis area that sell toys and gifts for children. Most of them are local and some operate under the radar, at least when compared to big-box stores.

1. Professor Toy. This is a locally owned toy store with an educational theme. It carries toy dinosaurs, science experiment kits and has a back room full of art and craft supplies.

Professor Toy has a store in the Villaggio Shopping Center (the same center as Barnes & Noble) at 7897 N. Blackstone Ave. There is also a Visalia location at 3448 S. Mooney Blvd. at Caldwell Avenue.

2. Crazy Squirrel Game Store. This store at 464 E. Bullard Ave. sells board games, along with role-playing, miniatures and card games.

3. Petunia's Place. At 6027 N. Palm Ave., this is mostly a children's bookstore, but it also carries wooden toys, puppets, puzzles and card games.

4. HobbyTown USA. This store at 102 E. Barstow Ave. sells model airplanes, rockets and radio-controlled cars.

5. Box Lunch. At Fashion Fair mall near Macy's Men's and Children's, this store carries kids T-shirts, stuffed animals and the Funko Pop! collectable figures with big heads from Star Wars, Harry Potter and other movies, TV shows and books.

Bethany Clough: 559-441-6431, @BethanyClough
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