NJ family keeps toy market alive during pandemic

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HAMMONTON, NJ (WPVI) – The Christmas spirit is thriving within the walls of a South Jersey toy store despite their struggles to survive the pandemic.

“The last two weeks before Christmas make or break a toy store vacation,” said Kelly Donio, founder and owner of Toy Market in Hammonton and Smithville.

Donio calls his children, Matthew, Juliet and Amelia, to be Santa’s little helpers in the shop.

“I have three kids who tell me a lot of things to do with my business,” she said. “They give me a lot of suggestions.”

Donio credits his children with creating Toy Market ten years ago.

“It just happened by chance,” Donio said. Formerly the owner of an all-purpose gift shop, her catalog changed when she became a mom.

“I started having children and realized that my toy section started to grow as my family started to grow,” she said.

Now in its 10th year of operation, Toy Market has survived the wave of online shopping, corporate toy stores and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Donio quickly moved many of his sales online earlier this year. But she says it’s the personalized shopping experience that empowers the community to support her business.

“It’s more intimate,” said Audrey Griess, a returning client from Hammonton. “I thought it was really nice to get out of the house and I also like supporting small businesses.”

Some travel outside of their hometown just to enjoy the in-person shopping experience.

“There aren’t any more like that, anywhere,” said Michele Davis, who commuted from Blackwood, New Jersey to visit. “There are different things to get children to use their imaginations again and not just technology.”

It’s the loyal customers that keep Kelly Donio hopeful for this holiday season and the New Year in 2021.

“We have to have these traditions and we have to keep this spirit alive,” she said.

To find out more about the Toy Market, visit their website.

RELATED: NJ Businesswoman Turns Property Into An Old-Fashioned Christmas Village

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