By Ian Nadeau
Atlantic News, Thursday, March 21, 2002
[Atlantic News Photo by Ian Nadeau]
HAMPTON -- Everybody wants to work in the toy department.
For David Schwab, owner of FunnyBones Toys in downtown Hampton, that dream has become a reality. But unlike other area toy stores, Schwab takes great care in the toys he markets to the Seacoast.
“We try to stay with the family and educational themes and we try not to be too frivolous when it comes to toy values,” says Schwab.
One of the premier specialty toy stores in the area, Funny- Bones stocks a plethora of exciting toys which kids will learn from and have fin while they’re doing it.
In addition, Schwab prides himself on his ability to guide shoppers who are in serious need of assistance. In cases where shoppers have younger relatives living far away, they are often unaware of what toys are popular with that age group. Whereas big department stores often cannot provide such direct assistance, Schwab will spend as much time as needed with individual shoppers in order to help them pick out the perfect gift.
“They love it and I’m proud to be able to help,” he says.
Many of the toys that crowd the shelves at FunnyBones originate from popular PBS programs such as Bob the Builder, Thomas the Tank Engine, and — coming soon — Caillou.
The Woodkins (makers of good, old-fashioned wooden toys like building blocks and toy instruments) line of toys makes for another prominent feature in the store. FunnyBones has one of the largest Woodkins assortments in the area. As Schwab looks around his own store, he can’t help but get excited when he reaches this section.
“You see this is educational!” he exclaims. “And you don’t need a remote control, you don’t need a battery and you don’t need a computer chip.”
Which is in essence what FunnyBones is all about: fun toys with redeemable value. FunnyBones doesn’t sell violent or offensive products; just toys that parents would be proud to buy for their kids.
“The challenge is to please my customers while also pleasing my business philosophy,” says Schwab.
As part of the continuing effort to make these two ends meet, Schwab continually seeks the advice of his customers. In fact, that is where he gets some of his best ideas.
At their suggestion Schwab sought out the Popular SET game — a family game involving visual perception — and the Tech-deck finger skateboards — a toy he would never have considered on his own.
Customer requests were also instrumental in FunnyBones becoming an authorized Ty Beanie Babies distributor. The popular beanbag-style animals are now some of his best-sellers. Their popularity within the store has even spawned an Internet newsletter which Schwab periodically sends out, informing clients of new releases, shipping dates and product retirements. He says approximately 100 people now subscribe to the newsletter.
“I try to add in some items that have adult value too,” says Schwab, picking up a copy of the Three Stooges trivia game..
In August, FunnyBones will celebrate their fourth year in their shop at 441 Lafayette Road, across from Depot Square. Ever since Schwab announced his intentions to open a toy store at that location, people have always asked why he would choose an area considered by many, including the board of selectmen at the time, to be a ghost town.
“I chose downtown Hampton because I have great faith in the town and I had great faith that I would prosper — not only because of my business philosophy, but — because the customers are there,” he says.
If the quality service and quality products are there, he says, people will come.
In the next few months, Schwab will shift the focus of FunnyBones to more summer related toys. He will be bringing in more gliders, Frisbees, balls and bats for families to pick up on their way to the beach. p In the meantime, he is also working on plans for the future. “We’re still a new store; we’re still very small,” he says. “We would like to expand. We would like to offer more quality products — more name brands — but right now, we just don’t have the space. Although looking to the future, I can say that there are bigger and better things ahead.” As FunnyBones Toys continues to try out new ideas, David and his wife, Rose; co-owner of the store, can always count on their two kids Sarah, 5, and Marie, 10 — to be their top- notch toy-testers
“They’re terrific and they’re a great at helping me figure out what kids want and what they will like,” says the proud father.
David Schwab and FunnyBones Toys can be reached at 929-3555.