Delaware’s toy dynasty comes to an end

Owner Joe Mitchell says deciding to close YoYo Joe’s Toys and Fun this summer was a long and very emotional process.

Then, Mitchell says, having to announce his heartbreaking decision to customers on the toy store’s website felt like a death in the family.

“As you can imagine, this is incredibly sad for us, but we want to recognize that we’ve had so many amazing experiences during this journey,” Mitchell wrote to his customers.

Open for almost five years in Wilmington, YoYo Joe’s was a continuation of Mitchell’s father’s retail toy legacy started in 1953. When Mitchell’s Trains, Toys and Hobbies closed in Sept. 2008, the younger Mitchell’s specialty toy shop welcomed its first customers a couple months later. 

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“At the time we opened, there was a decently healthy market for the specialty toy stores,” Mitchell said. “In the last five years since we’ve been open, I think there’s been four or five toy stores that have closed and it’s just, unfortunately, the trend seems to be in these toy stores going away.”

With customers buying more online and revenues starting to slip, Mitchell says he and wife Emily, who is also his business partner, could not commit to signing another five-year lease. 

“We certainly wanted to continue… but it’s more, I think for us, the way we look at it is, the trend is not going towards favoring smaller, independently-owned toy stores like that right now.”

The entire store is marked down 20 percent and Mitchell says the shelves are looking pretty bare. YoYo Joe’s lease runs out at the end of August, but Mitchell says depending on inventory, the store might close sooner.

While he’s going out of business, Mitchell is trying to keep his popular yo-yo club going, but at a different location; he’s still working out the details. Meantime, he is still hosting a yo-yo podcast. First featured the store’s yo-yo club in June. You can watch the story below.

Mitchell says he’s also hopeful he can sell the toy store’s signature pirate ship to the Delaware Children’s Museum so kids can continue to play on it even after YoYo Joe’s closes.

Right now, Mitchell is unsure about what’s next, but is fairly certain starting another retail venture is not in his future.

“People have jobs out there? Hey, I’m available!”

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