Ryan Carr just might have the best job in the world.
Carr is a “toy expert” for Mastermind Toys, which just opened its first B.C. location in Langley this month.
Among Carr’s tasks as toy expert, (he is also head of marketing) is to source out high quality, unique toys, games and books from all over the world.
“We are like curators of toys,” said Carr, who is very passionate about toys, to say the least. He is in Langley to help launch the store, which held its grand opening the first week of November to the delight of thousands of adults and kids alike who came to check them out.
He showed The Times around, picking out some of his favourite toys of the season, and the ones that are flying off the shelves.
“Starting Jan. 1, I start going to toy conventions all over the world, from Hong Kong to Germany. We will look at 10,000 to 12,000 items and we will only pick the best quality and the ones that look like the most fun,” said Carr.
What sets Mastermind apart from the other large toy stores is they aren’t necessarily going to carry the latest craze, or movie blockbuster characters. They focus on the classics, well built, hardy toys, like Lego and Playmobil, that have stood the test of time. They also have a selection of 4,000 book titles and unique scooters.
They also have innovative toys like the Hexbugs and educational toys that kids will play with longer than the latest fad, said Carr.
“We aren’t interested in toys that fall apart easy. We also look for toys that kids will play with again and again,” he said.
In his office, he has set up one of this season’s hottest toys — an inflatable indoor snow fort with realistic feeling snowballs. He has the occasional indoor snowball fight using these crunchy snowballs that feel like snowballs.
“Endless fun, even if it doesn’t snow,” Carr said.
At the front of the store, near the cash registers, is a floor/foot piano laid out for people to try and recreate the famed scene from the movie “Big.”
“I’d like to see someone try chopsticks on this,” he quipped. The piano can record the music you make and play it back to you, among other tricks.
They have Thomas the Train but beside it they have Brio, a Swedish company, which was the original maker of tracks and trains.
“Along came Thomas and characters came with those tracks and trains,” said Carr.
The 29-year-old company is based out of Ontario and has nine stores there. It wasn’t until the past couple years that the specialty toy store decided to expand, opening up 18 stores.
Calgary is the nearest store in the West. Langley is Mastermind’s 29th store and its first B.C. location.
“It was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up,” said Carr. “This community is such a perfect fit for what we are all about. The store location, right in the middle of a busy shopping retail area and its size was ideal.”
The 5,700 square feet Mastermind is located at the Langley Gate Shopping Centre, 20085 Langley Bypass, in the former Sony Store location.
The new Langley store design features stroller-friendly aisles, and colourful atmosphere that includes 10 foot tall hand-painted giraffes and other wild animals, exclusive to Mastermind from Hansa. It also has play areas for the kids.
Mastermind services include complimentary gift wrapping. A team of 20 knowledgeable hands-on toy experts have been hired for the Langley store. Carr suggests customers rely on them for help.
“If you say I have to buy for a six-year-old boy, they can provide you with really good ideas, showing you what that boy might like,” Carr said.
Founded over 29 years ago by brothers Andy and Jonathan Levy, Mastermind Toys currently operates 29 locations across Ontario and Alberta.
Hot toys for Christmas
• Hexbugs and Hexbugs Aquabot ($8.95)
• Rainbow Loom $18.95) makes
one-of-a-kind elastic bracelets
• Indoor snowballs ($19.95) for
a container full and Snow Fort $39.95