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Southlake Style

FIVE MINUTES WITH … Candace Williams

Nov 26, 2018 02:08PM ● By Maleesa Johnson
Even with an extensive background in early education, Candace Williams found herself in awe of the impact toys had on her daughters when they were little. The oldest is now a sophomore at the University of Texas, and the other is a senior in high school and soon to make empty nesters out of Candace and her husband, Wes. But Candace didn’t leave toys behind as her daughters grew. Rather, she wholeheartedly embraced providing toys for all, including right here in Southlake. Her store, The Toy Maven, is a staple for local families, even as the climate of retail changes.
 
MY FIRST BUSINESS VENTURE… was Kids Cooking Company. It began out of my Dallas home in 2002 when my two daughters, Helen and Elaine, were toddlers. I was combining two of my passions, cooking and teaching, and it was so much fun! In 2005, we opened in Preston-Royal Shopping Center and had about 100 square feet of retail space where we sold books and other cooking-related toys and games. I realized I had so much fun merchandising items and helping friends find unique gifts that when an adjoining space became available in 2007, we took down a back wall and added 3,000 square feet and opened The Toy Maven!
 
BEFORE OPENING THE TOY MAVEN… I studied at the graduate level in the field of elementary education and have taught in Houston and Dallas in a wide variety of educational settings. I enjoyed staying at home with my daughters and I learned more about child development and just how impactful it is to expose children to the right toys, games and books. This can allow children to learn so much more than I ever thought possible! I think that is why I am so passionate about what I do today. I love sharing how parents can support their child’s development with toys.
 
THE STORE’S NAME WAS INSPIRED BY… a bakery. My husband, Wes, and I decided to have a destination wedding in Sante Fe, New Mexico. It was so much easier to plan a fun, four-day event in a city with only two bakeries and two florists to consider! The Chocolate Maven captured my heart, as I love both chocolate and interesting words and they did a beautiful job with our cakes! I had never heard the Yiddish word and, as it means, ‘an expert in an area willing to share their knowledge with others,’ when pondering a name for my store, I immediately did a search and secured the name!
 
WE STARTED A CHRISTMAS EVE TRADITION… when our girls were 6 and 8 years old. We would let our staff leave as early as possible and place the girls on the registers. We would stay until the last person who had frantically pulled on our door left for family dinner with a present for each child. We’ve had some very funny stories over the years, and we feel we have been a part of keeping the peace and allowing families to enjoy their celebrations.
 
ASKING WHAT MY FAVORITE TOY IS… is like asking me which of my children is my favorite! I am just so passionate about the role that toys play in both the developmental and emotional lives of children and also how they can facilitate meaningful family time as we navigate busy schedules. We really strive to match great products to a child’s interests or developmental stage. That said, I have favorites in every category of toys! I am always looking for an opportunity to challenge a customer to a volley with my favorite active toy, Jazzmitton. It’s so much fun to hand a grandmother the racket and say, ‘Let’s play!’
 
DURING MY 11 YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY… I have seen the biggest ‘craze’ around spinners and squishies! But, Lego and stuffed animal friends continue to dominate.
 
AS WE APPROACH THE HOLIDAY SEASON… STEAM-related toys will be very popular. We have a great variety of items that allow children to explore concepts
of science, technology, engineering, the arts and math!
 
WHAT TOYS MEAN TO ME… can be summarized in the quote, ‘People don’t stop playing with toys because they grow old. They grow old because they stop playing!’
 
I WANT PEOPLE TO FEEL… happy and enjoy the experience of shopping in a locally-owned toy store. We are always striving to improve our customer service and educate our staff members on the always-growing selection of products we offer. We don’t want to just sell toys. There are lots of places that do that. We genuinely want to answer questions and make suggestions that help people find the right gift for the occasion.
 
THE CHALLENGE OF ONLINE COMPETITION…is real for any retail business. The way the major player in the field manipulates prices based on supply and demand is sometimes difficult to explain to customers, but I often hear that our prices are lower than Amazon, especially when items begin to become scarce.
 
SHOPPING LOCALLY IS SO… important as more dollars stay in the community to support local schools and other services. We have seen a fantastic increase in new customers since Toys-R-Us closed, and we hope to lure  them to the bright side of shopping in a local toy store! We are excited to be one of fewer than 20 Gold Standard Lego Stores in the U.S. and to offer everything from some of the biggest and most exciting brands to the truly specialty brands that are only in stores like ours.
THE BEST PART OF MY JOB IS… the relationships I have made with families and, of course, the hugs I get from my friends both young and old.