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Get to know Child’s Play Toys

Women in Business

Get to know Child’s Play Toys

She’s exactly what you’d imagine a toy store owner to be. Like a character straight out of a movie about a magic toy shop.

Except Nancy Savage is the magic of Child’s Play Toys.

Nancy Savage, owner of Child's Play Toys, holding a stuffed cat amidst racks of girls' clothing.

Brimming with energy and radiating joy at an intensity that makes walking into her store feel like walking into grandma’s house, Nancy understands that the key to running a successful toy store is simply the experience.

“We have toys out for kids to play with,” said Nancy, the founder and owner of Child’s Play Toys in Sioux Falls. “We have knowledgeable staff that, if someone comes in looking for a gift for a two-year-old, we can help them find the perfect option. We have story time every Tuesday morning at our downtown location. It’s the experience and the people that make us unique.”

Racks of girls' and boys' clothing in Child's Play Toy.

Shelves and display boxes lined with assorted toys in Child's Play Toys.

The "book room" in Child's Play Toys, where shelves of books line the walls from top to bottom.

A Jellycat stuffed animal sitting on a child's play chair in a toy store.

The little shop around the corner

A native of Sioux Falls, Nancy graduated from Lincoln High School and the University of Sioux Falls (USF).

“I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do,” she said, “but I had been working in retail for a long time. I decided that I wanted to go into buying.”

After graduating from USF, she began her career working as a buyer for Michael’s and Burke’s, a local clothing store.

That job took her from Sioux Falls to the big city of New York every six weeks to do buying for the store, and Nancy credits it with launching her corporate retail career.

“I always joke that I worked for many companies that were bought by Macy’s,” she said.

At the same time, her husband’s job required them to move all over the country.

It was when their family eventually landed in Seattle that she began to realize her dream of entrepreneurship.

“My daughter and I would go to all these toy stores, and they had just the most amazing stores,” Nancy said. “We would spend, like, a day just wandering around and going to different toy stores.”

“I started thinking about opening a toy store, because Sioux Falls didn’t have one downtown,” she continued. “I just thought, ‘Oh, that would be my dream: to have a store downtown.’ Kind of like the movie You’ve Got Mail, where it was just the little shop around the corner.”

While in Seattle, Nancy had made a connection with a woman who owned a toy store; so, she called her up.

“It turned out that she was from Minnesota but had lived in Sioux Falls for a short time,” Nancy said. “She took me under her wing and showed me everything about owning a toy store. She took me to market with her, and she showed me all of her financials. I was so fortunate to have a mentor who showed me these things.”

Still living in Seattle, Nancy made a visit home to Sioux Falls to see family. Her mom informed her of a Small Business Administration (SBA) seminar in town and encouraged her to attend.

“I learned so much from the SBA,” she said. “They introduced me to someone from the Small Business Development Center, and he helped me finish my business plan with all the financials. And I was like, ‘Okay, I’ve got to just do this.’ That’s when I decided to move back to Sioux Falls and take the leap.”

It was 2009 when Nancy started looking for her dream storefront in downtown Sioux Falls, eventually landing on a space along Phillips Avenue.

“I wanted to show my parents the space,” she said. “I was waiting for the realtor to show me again with my parents, and he didn’t show up that day.”

However, she found out that same day that the Great Outdoor Store had bought a building and was moving out of their storefront, “and if I could have picked any spot in Sioux Falls to open a toy store, it would have been this corner.”

Thus, Child’s Play Toys became the little shop on the corner of 11th and Phillips.

The storefront of Child's Play Toys, located on Phillips Avenue in downtown Sioux Falls.

The window of a Sioux Falls toy store looking out to Phillips Avenue in downtown.

Support from the Sioux Falls community

“It’s not easy to get funding to start a small business,” Nancy said. “I had money saved, but it was one of those things where people had to believe in you. I ended up finding someone who believed it was a good idea, and I am so grateful for that.”

She would also be the first to tell you that it takes more than just one person believing in you to run a successful business — it takes a whole community.

“COVID was by far the biggest hurdle we’ve had,” Nancy said. “I could just start crying thinking about it. The support from the community — that’s why we’re still here. People here believe in shopping local, and that is where I think we are so lucky in Sioux Falls.”

Just like many businesses in town that had to shutter their doors during the height of the pandemic, Nancy and the team at Child’s Play Toys began looking for ways to keep the store operating.

The answer: Easter baskets.

“I was actually thinking about getting rid of our website before COVID because we never used it,” Nancy said. “But thank goodness we didn’t, because during COVID we put Easter baskets on our website. There were like four different price ranges, and then we delivered them.”

Together, the dedicated team at Child’s Play Toys assembled and delivered more than 300 Easter baskets that spring.

“That’s what got us through the beginning of the pandemic until we were able to open up again,” Nancy said. “We still make Easter baskets; that’s kind of become a tradition now.”

The Child’s Play Toys experience

What started as a saving grace during the pandemic has also become a part of the in-store experience for Child’s Play Toys, which has locations both in downtown Sioux Falls and The Bridges at 57th.

“We started doing Easter stations in the store now, too,” Nancy said. “We have baskets and stuffing, and people can create their own baskets with a $50 purchase.”

An Easter display inside Child's Play Toys.

A longer-running tradition at the store, similar to the make-your-own Easter baskets, is birthday buckets.

A week before their birthday, children can come to the store and pick out items they want to fill their buckets with. Then, family and friends can come in and ask to see the bucket.

“It’s kind of like a registry,” Nancy said. “When someone comes in, we pull the bucket down and show it to them, and they take what they want to purchase. We wrap it for them, and then the kiddo gets exactly what they wanted.”

It makes birthdays easier on others, too, because grandma and grandpa can come down to the store and grab something from the pre-selected items in the bucket.

And at the end of the day, the real Child’s Play Toys experience comes from not just the magic of Nancy Savage, but that of the people she’s surrounded herself and her business with.

Nancy Savage, owner of Child's Play Toys, posing in front of the Sioux Falls toy store.

“I am fortunate to have people who’ve worked with me for years and years and years,” Nancy said. “Owning a small business is having good people around you. I have such a great network, from my bookkeeper to my accountant to my banker. And the people who work here — everybody has their special gifts. I feel so lucky.”

If you’re a business owner looking to grow and make your vision a reality, reach out to our Business Banking team; they’d be happy to help!

And if you’d like to experience Child’s Play Toys for yourself, you can learn more about the woman-owned small business on their website.

Have questions? We're here to help.

Jill Mockler

Business Banking Team Lead

Jeremy Keckler

Business Banking Manager

Derek Ohme

Business Banking Team Lead

Russ Robers

Business Banking Team Lead
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