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CAMP Is Rebooting The Old Fashioned Toy Store

Written by Meredith Stettner

Photography by Photos courtesy of CAMP

In June of last year, after 70 years of ruling the toy market, Toys “R” Us shut down all of its remaining U.S. locations. As an experienced entrepreneur, Nikki Kaufman wasn’t shocked—the big box model wasn’t sustainable in the wake of the online shopping revolution. But as a mom of two, she also sensed a void in the brick-and-mortar toy market. So, Kaufman and her husband, Ben, set out to fill it with CAMP—a toy store-meets-experiential destination, where play precedes shopping—and it’s a hit.

“CAMP has quickly become a gathering place for young families, who come on a daily or weekly basis to have fun and feel inspired!” says Nikki, who is also Chief People Officer of the brand. The popularity of the flagship NYC store (which will turn one this December) has inspired the Kaufman’s to keep going—in early November, CAMP will debut in Dallas, and locations in Brooklyn and Hudson Yards are on the way.

One trip to the shop and it’s easy to see what the buzz is all about. Upon entering CAMP, you’ll find a curated old-school general store set-up (inspired by one CEO Ben visited in Vermont as a kid). With toys, gifts, and apparel, the colors and features are a treat for the eyes. In the corner is a Milk Bar Canteen, should you desire some cocoa to fuel your adventure. Then in the back, a magic door opens, and you’re transported from the hustle and bustle of a shop into another world completely—depending on the theme at the time, you may drop down into the NYC subway, step into a full-on camping scene, complete with vintage station wagon, or trek through a wild jungle, crossing a swinging rope bridge and climbing up into the canopy. There’s also a stage for musical performances and areas for craft-making and other kiddie classes.

And of course, all the goodies kids discover along the way can be purchased and brought home. The shop sources much of its merchandise from small brands, and curates it to fit with the ever-changing store themes (currently travel and cooking). Naturally, as CPO, Kaufman isn’t just about the ideas, she’s about the people, too. She makes an effort to  hire creatives—talented musicians, actors, and artists—who reinforce the idea that a truly good retail experience these days starts with storytelling. Kaufman believes it’s these extra-special elements that keeps her customers coming back.

Click through the slideshow below to to read our Q&A with Kaufman and take of tour of CAMP.


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