It was 1948, and Charles Lazarus had a hunch. Freshly returned from civilization War II, that knew he wanted to enter business, and he knew—long before the hatchet “baby boom” to be a usual phrase—that his friends were about to start having actually lots the babies.

“Everyone ns talked to claimed they were going to walk home, get married, have actually children and also live the American dream,” the told Entrepreneur in 2008. “I decided that ns would open up a save in mine father’s bicycle-repair shop. But instead of marketing bikes, i would market cribs, carriages, strollers, high chairs—everything for the baby. Mine instincts told me the timing to be right.”

Those instincts didn’t just aid Lazarus capitalize ~ above the infant boom: They assisted originate playthings ‘R’ Us. Once a retail juggernaut, the store conquered the entire toy industry—and children’s imaginations—by driving its rivals out of existence.

Now, the retail giant has been forced into bankruptcy, the victim that a retail design it helped pioneer. In in march 2017, the 70-year-old businessannounced the it would contact it quits. It to be the end of one era because that the store that once hosted a lock top top the entire toy industry and also made toy shopping—once a seasonal treat—into a regular family outing.


Lazarus opened his very first store, Children’s cheap Town, in Washington, D.C. In 1948. Specializing in baby goods, the only began selling toys once Lazarus establish customers didn’t come earlier for much more strollers, high chairs and also other baby products with their 2nd child. The started offering a couple of inexpensive toys, then included to his inventory as they verified popular.

But Lazarus wasn’t content to avoid with a solitary store. He had an idea the was bigger than Children’s Bargain town or any kids’ store he had ever before seen—a substantial store filled with every toy in existence. In 1957, he gained out the the infant furniture business, renamed his agency Toys ‘R’ Us and also created the an initial ever big-box toy store.

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The new megastore take it a supermarket-style strategy to toy selling, which identified it from every various other toy save in existence. Many toy stores were tiny and family-run, and also only carried a minimal line that products. Lazarus’ stores, top top the various other hand, to be orders that magnitude larger than their competitors, and presented a smorgasbord of thousands of various toys.

Big-box stores favor Toys ‘R’ us astonished the era’s consumers, who had simply never seen shop that large and crammed v merchandise. “What Lazarus really captured was this sense of American abundance after ~ the war and after every those year of depression,” says Richard Gottlieb, founder of worldwide Toy Experts and an government on the toy business.

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1970s playthings R united state ad, still connected with the Children’s Bargain town name.

Rusty Blazenhoff/Flickr creative Commons/CC BY-NC 2.0

Gottlieb watch Lazarus as component of a bigger tide of entrepreneurship the took hold in the post-war years. “The modern American toy sector was really created by Jewish soldiers coming back from the war,” he says. Other Jewish market superstars include Isaac Heller, that converted army surplus into toys for boys in the 1950s, Elliot Handler, the founder of Mattel, and Milton Levine, creator of the wildly famous “Milton’s Ant Farm,” which was a hit with children during the 1950s and 1960s.

Lazarus’ idea was deceptively simple: develop a supermarket for toys. While other toy shops had display cases and also decorative interiors, playthings ‘R’ Us had actually concrete or brick flooring (better because that the bottom line) and also rows of toys laid out beside each other, grocery store store-style. The store’s bare-bones appearance didn’t seem to matter to consumers, who were entranced through the toys within.