Yellow Springs Toy Company owner reinvents herself and store

Jamie Sharp is not playing around when she says toys are for everyone.

Sharp owns Yellow Springs Toy Company on Xenia Drive in Yellow Springs.

“Play is healthy for everybody. And there’s always room to grow and learn and develop on a personal level. And that’s what I’ve had to do to keep this business going,” Sharp said.

She started her business about three years ago in the space that was formerly Mr. Fub’s Party.

“Learning and growth are lifelong pursuits. That has certainly been shown through what it’s taken to keep this business going but also through what it what it is that I provide,” Sharp said.

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Jamie Sharp, owner of Yellow Springs Toy Company. The store has many unique toys, puzzles, books, cards and candy. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

Jamie Sharp, owner of Yellow Springs Toy Company.  The store has many unique toys, puzzles, books, cards and candy. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

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Jamie Sharp, owner of Yellow Springs Toy Company. The store has many unique toys, puzzles, books, cards and candy. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

The former marketing executive said she has had to reinvent her store throughout the pandemic, much like she has had to reinvent herself throughout her career. Sharp, who is 56, said she was aged out of her previous career. When she would interview for positions, she had a hard time competing with people who were younger than her and could be paid less than her, she said. Studies show that about 40% of women over 50 who are looking for a job won’t find one again. Research from the National Bureau of Economic Research found older women are less likely be hired.

“And if you add being a Black woman to that... it’s a tough position to be in,” Sharp said.

When Mr. Fub’s closed, Sharp said she saw a need in her community and an opportunity. She reinvented herself professionally by learning all about retail and educating herself on toys.

“We’re not just for kids. Play is important for everyone,” Sharp said.

And Sharp filled the need well. She was named “2020 Best of Dayton” toy store and won a few other awards.

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The Yellow Springs Toy Company has many unique toys, puzzles, books, cards and candy. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

The Yellow Springs Toy Company has many unique toys, puzzles, books, cards and candy.  MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

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The Yellow Springs Toy Company has many unique toys, puzzles, books, cards and candy. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

ExploreAfter 2020, Black-owned businesses find themselves in new landscape

Sharp said during the shutdown early in the pandemic, the store switched to curbside and local delivery, then to delivery after someone reported the business as not being essential.

Yellow Springs Toy Company didn’t have a website that sold inventory, so when everything was shutdown, Sharp had to quickly develop one. Yellow Springs Toy Company now ships to anywhere in the U.S.

When the store was finally able to reopen, Sharp and her four employees had to reduce capacity, crack open some windows, change the flow of traffic inside the store and make sure all customers used hand sanitizer.

“We’re doing everything we can to make this a safe environment, we’re one of the highest touch environments there is. People can come in and touch and play. We had to really change that. We’ve asked people not to touch, and that’s really hard in a toy store. It’s been really challenging. That has eaten into our potential earnings,” Sharp said. “It’s been very challenging and very fatiguing. Just all of the necessary policing and safety precautions, on top of being experts on our toys and helping people find the right match for their needs. It’s required a lot of flexibility and a lot of adaptability.”

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The Yellow Springs Toy Company has many unique toys, puzzles, books, cards and candy. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

The Yellow Springs Toy Company has many unique toys, puzzles, books, cards and candy.  MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

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The Yellow Springs Toy Company has many unique toys, puzzles, books, cards and candy. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

Sharp said she feels like she’s had to reinvent her business several times since March 2020. For instance, once the store reopened, they had to relearn how to operate the brick-and-mortar store but also keep up with online orders and the new website.

“Business is definitely down significantly from last year,” she said. “It’s been a struggle, but we’re doing it one step at a time.”

Sharp said the pandemic has also changed her customers’ shopping behaviors. The store has been selling 1,000-piece and 2,000-piece puzzles “like crazy,” she said. There is also a lot more interest in educational games or materials that help parents with kids learning from home. Art supplies have also been popular.

“People are spending more time at home and they’re needing things to keep them busy and keep their minds active,” Sharp said.

Despite the challenges COVID has thrown Sharp, she finds great joy in owning her own business.

“It’s been a little scary and disheartening at times, but it’s all forced me to grow and get better,” Sharp said.


Black History Month

The Dayton Daily News is featuring Black-owned businesses and telling about their successes and the obstacles they face as part of Black History Month.

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