New Elmhurst business reaches out to customers of shuttered My Favorite Toy Store

ELMHURST – My Favorite Toy Store has closed, but another Elmhurst business is offering to accept at least portions of unused gift cards issued by former toy store.

A Book Above, located at 136 W. Vallette St. a few doors down from Elijah's Specialty Coffee and Tea, has agreed to take 15 percent off every purchase made by someone with a My Favorite Toy Store gift card, up to the value of the gift card.

According to the children's book store's Facebook page, the newly opened store hopes to help out disappointed children who may have gotten gift cards for Christmas that are now otherwise useless.

Those with gift cards must be able to prove their value with a receipt.

"We gather many were impacted by this closure," said A Book Above on its Facebook page.

The owner of My Favorite Toy Store said outstanding business loans led to closing the downtown Elmhurst and Downers Grove stores.

Owner Michael Geisen of Downers Grove said the bank declined to offer a payment plan and instead took a lump-sum payment on long-term business loans, emptying his business checking account.

Geisen said he took loans over time to buy inventory for both stores, as well as remodeling efforts and initial build-outs. But there were no funds left to pay staff or keep the doors open, which he closed for good at both stores at 3 p.m. Dec. 31.

Geisen opened the Downers Grove location first in 2001, after a survey of residents named a toy store as the third most-wanted downtown business, he said. He opened the Elmhurst store in 2005 at 123 N. York Street.

John Quigley, president of Elmhurst Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said losing My Favorite Toy Store could impact downtown Elmhurst.

"It's always bothersome when you lose a destination store," Quigley said.

Quigley explained that Christmas shopping yielded more in total sales for retailers this season than last, but numbers still came in lower than forecasted. Many retailers count on those fourth-quarter sales around Christmas for a successful fiscal year, Quigley said.

Still, Quigley said the fate of My Favorite Toy Store is one all too common to the retail business scene since the recession.

"Unfortunately, retail store closings are kind of business as usual for any time of the year," Quigley said.

Geisen said further outstanding bills and outstanding sales taxes require him to sell all remaining merchandise at wholesale on advice of his attorney. He will not able to honor gift certificates, returns or exchanges.

"I can't open the doors and incur more expense," he said. "I feel really bad about that."

Geisen said business began to slow in 2008.

"We were struggling, but I certainly didn't see this coming," he said.

The two stores employed 17 people, he said.

He said he believes a mom-and-pop toy store can still be a viable business in downtowns like Downers Grove and Elmhurst.

"We were the vendor of choice with the specialty items that we carry," he said. "And with the free gift wrapping and customer service, and helping the customer find the right gift, you can't get that on Amazon."

– Reporter Mari Grigaliunas contributed to this report.