by Michael Abbey
Mrs. Tiggy Winkle’s, with four locations in Ottawa, is not new to new and long-term residents of the capital city. In fact, this year they are celebrating their fortieth anniversary!
I got a sense of the pride and accomplishment she felt for the company and its 40-year history when I spoke with Eira MacDonell, who manages the stores. The Glebe location was first and is still regarded as the flagship establishment. The owners originally resided in the Glebe but have recently moved further west in Ottawa. MacDonell regards the staff over the decades as one of the contributors to the stores’ staying power and their fit with the neighbourhoods within which they operate. “For the Glebe neighbourhood, which is really where this all started, it’s family owned and operated. One of the key successes has been the people that work here.”
At the Bank Street store, some staff may look like an adult version of someone you were used to seeing there in the 80s because many of their staff are just that. “One of the young girls that worked here – both her parents worked for Mrs. Tiggy Winkle’s. They met here and got married.” Many of the staff frequented the store as a child, and worked there part-time while in secondary school and even college. “The stores are community supported and staffed. MacDonell sees the clientele and staff as part of the corporate family. The Rideau Centre store has been there 30ish years, now occupying a strategic location near Nordstrom’s. There are currently about 40 employees of all ages, whose employment longevity with and dedication to Mrs. Tiggy Winkle’s exemplify the way the company runs its business. “Each store has very strong management. Stacey has been the manager here for eight years.”
Maida Anisman and her son Simon are owners, doing the majority of the buying. Outside and inside sources’ opinions have an impact on what you find in the store. Notes MacDonell, “our managers’ and our customers’ feedback can sometimes guide them to their choices. There are a lot of products out there that are not necessarily what you would want to clutter your shelves with.” More than 50 per cent of the store’s products have been carried for decades and include classic toys that are not battery operated and have never been commercialized. Many of the stores’ wares are educational and provide an outlet for a child’s imagination and creative potential.
MacDonell and I chatted on the upper floor of the Bank Street store, home to Lost Marbles, whose contents cater to older children. Lost Marbles displays a suite of unique board games, coupled with some familiar offerings that have been popular for decades. “We have developed a very strong gift line.” MacDonell pointed me to Mille Bornes when I mentioned it as a childhood favourite of mine. She has seen a resurgence in board game use, primarily, in her opinion, due to their social interaction potential.
In May 2017, Mrs. Tiggy Winkle’s will host a storewide sale to celebrate its 40 years in business. There will be an open house with a drop-in and customer appreciation theme. Some exciting offerings will be on sale during the month over and above the tantalizing offerings familiar to clientele throughout the year. MacDonell describes the inventory as societally and environmentally conscious, showing the store’s attention to detail in what they choose to display on their shelves. You will not find any toy guns on their shelves, which is refreshing.
The toys they sell, the way they are displayed and their excellent customer service have propelled Mrs. Tiggy Winkle’s to the forefront of toy stores in Ottawa. Young people come in and play, interacting with their peers alongside welcoming and encouraging staff. There is lot of foot traffic and the rejuvenation of Lansdowne has boosted the number of people entering the store on Redblacks game days and more.
Mrs. Tiggy Winkle’s has a strong online presence and MacDonell said the electronic portal for their offerings is doing well. Online sales are steadily increasing as is traffic on their Facebook page. They have a monthly newsletter people can sign up for online, with a growing readership.
MacDonell and the company as a whole are thankful to all those who have frequented the store and become part of a strong, steady clientele, and have passed the word along to others.
Michael Abbey is a retired high-tech professional who has written about software and other matters for 20 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at PreferMajors on Twitter, or found directing a bridge game near you.
Mrs. Tiggy Winkle’s
809 Bank St.
Monday – Wednesday and Saturday
9:30 – 5:30
Thursday-Friday 9:30 – 8:00
Sunday 11 – 5