In Gruene, there is a store that makes the kid in all of us light up, makes young children squeal in delight, and transports adults back to a time when life was simpler. Got Toys, located in the Texas Hill Country, offers visitors the chance to be silly, laugh out loud, and most importantly, have fun!
But Got Toys in Gruene is not your typical toy store. “For one thing, we don’t just cater to children”, states owner Jen Johnson. “It is our firm belief that everyone needs play, fun, and laughter. What kind of life would we have without these things? It makes life worth living. So our motto is, ‘Fun for Everyone’. We get all ages of people who come in to play and admire. People tell us all the time, “I haven’t seen one of these since I was a kid!”
Situated in a quaint Gingerbread-style yellow house on the outskirts of the Gruene’s famous historical district, it’s hard not to feel a wave of nostalgia - and then you see the huge yellow ducky with sunglasses and a six-foot wing span that keeps guard over the front garden! “We wanted to do something whimsical that people would remember us by. Since our mascot was the rubber ducky, we thought he would be a perfect addition to our Got Toys family. I think it also tells people that this isn’t a traditional toy store. It’s such a great photo op, that on the weekends we have people literally lining up to get their pictures taken with our duck, which we’ve nicknamed ‘Sir Quacks-a-lot’.”
As people walk into the store, you can see the delight on their faces as their eyes take in the vast array of toys in all shapes and colors that fill the store. “I love to stand behind the counter and watch people’s faces as they come in,” Jen tells me. “Almost inevitably they will say, ‘Wow! This place is great!’ Such an explosion of colors really excites the customers.”
The store is made up of five rooms, each filled to the brim with exciting surprises and whimsical gifts.
The front room has walls lined with funny magnets and bins of smaller, inexpensive toys. Jen calls this “Stocking-stuffer central.”
“During the busy Christmas season, we are having to restock these bins every day!” says Mandi, a stay-at-home mom who also works at the store a few days a week.
There is a room with toys geared for babies and younger children, with items such as German-made blocks and rattles, tea sets, different Jack-in-the Boxes, and tin tops abound! “We sell a lot of European-made toys to wary parents of young kids. They don’t want to risk their children sticking toys in their mouth that may have breakable small parts or lead paint, and the European toy market has much stricter toy testing guidelines than the US when it comes to baby toys,” says Jen.
Older kids enjoy the room that has items such as science kits, puppets, games, and even retro tin windups along with tons of other unique and hard-to-find items. There is also a book room where you can find all kinds of books for babies and kids, as well as a humorous adult book section.
“I can always tell when someone is reading one of the humor books. There is this unmistakable raucous laughter that we hear all day from that section of the store,” Mandi tells me.
Last, but certainly not least, is perhaps the most popular section of the store, the ‘Dorm Room’-for grown-ups who like to laugh. Gag gifts, novelties, lunch boxes, funny buttons, and collectibles line the walls and shelves of this room. According to Got Toys Store Manager Missy, some of the hottest items this Christmas season have been bacon-related. And there are a ton of Bacon-themed items to choose from! Bacon action figures, bacon-flavored toothpicks, a bacon wallet, bacon mints, and bacon bandages, just to name a few.
What’s the most popular item in the store? “It changes daily!” Jen tells us. “The most popular items we sell tend to be those that get demonstrated. If people see us playing with something in the store, they always want it. Of course if they see us having fun, they want in on the action! It’s human nature. The funny thing is that the only toys we play with are the ones we think are fun. So they should be our best sellers anyway!” According to Mandi, playing with toys all day is about as fun a job as you can get. “Where else would I be paid to play with toys all day but in a toy store? And when you see people so happy to be here having fun... I think it’s about the best job in the world.”
Got Toys is just one of many of the unique and fabulous stores and attractions you’ll find in Gruene, located on the northeast side of New Braunfels. It’s home to Gruene Hall, the oldest dance hall in Texas where big named bands such as Pat Green and Willie Nelson still play. During the warmer months, river rafting and tubing are always great fun. There are tons of great places to eat such as the Gristmill and the award-winning River House Tearoom, and numerous quaint bed and breakfasts located right in the area. Be sure to check out the Christmas Festival on December 3, where Cowboy Claus rides his sleigh down the streets of Gruene followed by the lighting of the town!
If you’re looking for a place to get away for a weekend or even bring the family for a week of fun, be sure to check out Gruene, conveniently located along I-35 between Austin and San Antonio. For more information you can visit the following websites: www.gruenetoys.com, www.gruenetexas.com.
Contact Got Toys at 1714 Hunter Road, New Braunfels, TX 78130 or 830-620-4700.
Photos by Tom Suarez, www.tomsuarez.net