"I always strive to find the beauty and value." – Suki Beeh, Owner, Tinker Toys Too!
Tinker Toys Too!
Open daily from 11 to 6
5 Mill Hill Road
+1 845 679 8870
Tinker Toys Too! (AKA Tinker Toys of Woodstock) is an upscale toy store for children (and adults) of all ages, best known for its ever-changing collection of classic, quirky, artistic and hard-to-find toys from around the world. In this edition of The Real Deal, we interview the owner of this Hudson Valley hotspot, Suki Beeh, who opened up her shop in Woodstock three decades ago.
1. How did you end up in toys?
You could say it was pure luck, opportunity, and being in the right place at the right time. I graduated from Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, FL, and had a career in the arts making sculpture. But when I moved back to Woodstock, this town was filled with amazing artists, and I soon realized I needed to find a career that was more stable and less competitive, but would still utilize my artistic background.
2. Why Woodstock?
Woodstock Is an artist community, with operas and plays from Manhattan performed here, galleries filled with culture, amazing music created and performed here, and fabulous restaurants. In addition, because of its proximity to Manhattan, many different languages are spoken here. And, people are friendly. My mother bought a house here; she was Swiss and, Ohayo Mountain, where we live, reminded her of home. I wanted to be with my mother, as she was all alone. So here I am.
3. What is the Tinker Toys mission, and how do you differentiate yourself from big corporate stores and smaller competitors?
With an artistic background and Swiss taste, I always strive to find the beauty and value in anything I buy. At Tinker Toys, there will be no junk. Our toys have to be well-made and different, so they tend to be more artsy. That helps differentiate Tinker Toys from big corporate stores. Also, our toys are often quirky, humorous, and unique. But, most importantly, our toys are meant to be enjoyed every day and then passed down from one generation to the next. Also, what makes Tinker Toys different than our smaller competitors is that I carry toys that are fun for everybody, from newborns to adults. Hence, our motto is "Unique toys for all ages."
4. How do you promote yourself? What tactics do you employ to try to grow your business or expand your online presence?
My customers promote Tinker Toys. Remember, Woodstock is really a village. Word of mouth has been my biggest promoter. Of course, I also try to keep our website up to date. But, really, the biggest draw comes from being in the heart of the Village of Woodstock, with passersby peering into the store through our big glass windows.
5. Describe your aesthetic/products. How do you determine what toys to stock? Are there any local toymakers/brands?
Practicality and aesthetics are my passions. Our toys are truly art, often sculpture. They're playable and, most importantly, they're beautiful to see every day. I go to all the shows in New York City — even food shows, as you never know what you are going to find. Every so often, I import toys that I find from elsewhere the world. But, unfortunately, at this time, I have no local toy artisans.
6. How long have you been in Woodstock personally? Professionally? What has changed since you've been here?
I have been in Woodstock since I was seven years old! Professionally, it's been more than 30. The changes I've seen have really come from the sheer amount of people moving to Woodstock. The town has grown a lot over the years. As for the store, I'm now more committed than ever to carrying only the toys and objects that really speak to me and fit our mission.
7. What are the top three things you love about Woodstock?
I love Woodstock for its quaint, small-village feel. I love that you can walk to everything, seeing along the way people you have known for years, along with all the new arrivals and visitors. I love that the town has grown from being mainly distinguished by its art, to now having a thriving music scene and tourism industry, too! Woodstock also caters to people of all ages, just like Tinker Toys Too!
8. What is one thing you'd change about Woodstock?
The taxes. They really have gone through the roof!
9. What is your favorite time of year in Woodstock? As a local? As a shop owner? Why?
I love the summer — the warmth, the gardening, watching the flowers bloom, foraging in the woods... Summer is also the busiest time for the shop, with the annual influx of tourists. It's great for business, but it can be hard on the locals.
10. What is it like running a small business in Woodstock?
Great! Luckily, after 30 years in business, I no longer have to be at the shop seven days a week. I have fantastic help, so I get to do what I love: hunting for products; arranging the store and designing the window displays; and spending time with the public.
11. In your words, what are the pros and cons of owning a retail store in general?
The biggest con was always finding good help — it took me years. The biggest pro is being able to rely on my own sense of what is unique, what is special. Of course, the biggest challenge is ensuring Tinker Toys is always changing so there's something new and unusual to surprise our customers.
12. What is the importance of the winter holiday season in keeping your business successful?
Christmas, of course, is big in toys. But the shorter season makes it crazy busy! Woodstock also has the annual Christmas Eve arrival of Santa at the Village Green. This attracts crowds of locals and visitors, which is terrific for local businesses like Tinker Toys.
13. What is your target audience?
Tinker Toys caters to all ages — from newborns to adults. We appeal to the kid in all of us, regardless of age.
14. Is there a difference between local shoppers and tourists? If so, what/how?
Yes. While locals are familiar with Tinker Toys, many tourists have never seen such unusual things in a toy shop before. I get incredible compliments every day, even from those without children. Tourists are happy in Tinker Toys, finding what makes each of them smile.
15. Are you active in the Woodstock or Ulster County community? If so, how?
Being a longtime business owner in the heart of Woodstock, I am active in our community.
16. What is your most popular toy right now? Of all time?
So many of our toys are popular, and we don't carry to trends, so it's difficult to say. For the middle-range kids, we recently stocked light-up globes and metal stamping sets. For the four-to-six range, our Magna-Tiles are always popular. For adults, we have a Swiss Army knife for cooking, which includes a lemon zester, cheese grader, garlic press, and more! And for babies our most coveted toy would have to be the felt mobiles — they're so fun!
17. What is your most expensive toy right now? Of all time?
The wooden monkey from Denmark for $1,400.
18. What's the most any one single shopper has spent at once?
It was a couple — Woodstock summer residents who spent about $2,000.
19. Poll your staff. Where does everyone eat lunch on workdays?
20. Poll your staff. What was everyone's favorite toy growing up?
Our favorites include Simon Says, building blocks that build cities, and Jumping Jack puppets. Of course, for me, being Swiss, I always loved Steiff animals.
The Next Edition
Do you live and work in Woodstock, Kingston or elsewhere in the Hudson Valley and want to be featured in an upcoming The Real Deal interview? Email me.
Halter Associates Realty
Photo 1: Juliet Lofaro | Photo 2: Wikipedia