Originally located on First Avenue between 78th and 79th streets, HomBom Toys and its distinctive red awning decorated with children’s hand prints, had taken care of children’s toy needs in the neighborhood for more than a generation. That’s until rising rents forced HomBom to close its doors last December after more than thirty years on the Upper East Side. Now, the popular toy store is back open and welcoming customers of all ages.
HomBom Toys is in the midst of a soft opening for its new shop located at 1470 First Avenue, between 76th and 77th streets, just a few blocks south of its original store. Still getting situated and stocking the shelves, Upper East Site has learned HomBom is planning a more formal launch for the ‘toy and craft emporium’ in the coming weeks.
Ilene Gayer, who took over the business around 2007, said the “good old-fashioned toy store” has struggled to compete with big box stores and Amazon– but what HomBom Toys offers, as opposed to big box stores, is a more personal touch.
“We don’t just sell an item to sell an item, we make sure that the item that is sold is conducive to the child,” said Gayer.
When parents come into the store, they will be asked about their child’s personality, what they enjoy, their age, and their stage of development, so that each kid gets a toy that is “proper” for them.
“I don’t want a 3-year-old getting a 5-year-old gift or a 6-year-old gift,” Gayer continued.
It was this personal touch that the neighborhood lost when HomBom closed just before the new year.
Gayer remembered often having frantic parents run into the store saying they had ordered a toy online and it hadn’t arrived on time, it had gotten lost in the mail, or the website had dropped the ball. She said HomBom is there to fill that need.
That is the strength of a small business, Gayer says. “Keep the small business going,” she urged. “We are the backbone of the country.”
As befitting a name for toy shop, the store was named for the childish utterance of previous owner Steven Goldfarb’s then-toddler daughter, who came running up to him saying, “Hom bom!”
Gayer laughed as she told the Upper East Site that the phrase is linguistically meaningless, but sentimental nonetheless.
After the hardships faced over the past two years, Gayer is excited to welcome customers back to the new HomBom Toys. She looks forward to “just having my customers coming back and seeing customers and helping them.”
“I love the little kids that come in having a rapport with everybody. I love everything about it. There isn’t anything I don’t like.”