Stepping into in Livingston is essentially taking a time machine back into your childhood – a day and age long before iPads and Xboxes dominated the attention of our kids.
Which is exactly what Dan Shapiro hoped to accomplish when he purchased the 97-year-old business nine years ago and moved it north from New Brunswick.
“We decided to create more of a boutique-type store here and do something that was different than Toys R Us and Target,” said Shapiro, who was born in Millburn and resides in Short Hills.
Indeed, Meyer's is the antithesis of chain stores in both size (it takes up three stores) and scope (no video games are sold here). This much is clear when you first enter and see classic stuffed animals and puppets including Raggedy Ann and Andy, Bert and Ernie, and the Cookie Monster and Grover.
Walk in any direction and it will probably unlock a part of your past. There is a section with vintage toys such as Gumby, Pokey and Mr. Bill, as well as Slinkies and Wiffle Balls. Across the aisle near the cash register are toys buses, cars, tanks and trucks similar to the Hot Wheels and Matchbox vehicles of yesteryear.
On display elsewhere in the store are intricately detailed dollhouses and what Meyer's says is the largest collection of Madame Alexander Dolls in New Jersey. And, of course, there are American Girl Doll Boutique and Barbie dolls.
However, Meyer's attracts a lot of traffic for its impressive collection of trains. There are cars, tracks and accompaniments, both classic and modern, that take up nearly two aisles. On most days, adults indulging their child come here to add pieces to their longtime collections.
For younger children, there are wooden train tables that Meyer's builds hundreds of annually from scratch. Several of them displayed best resembled scale models of cities. Kids come in with their friends or with their parents just to play with them – “We don't have a no-touch policy,” Shapiro said – and are all smiles as they make their trains chug along.
In addition, Shapiro said fathers often bring in their children to buy model rockets – Meyer's also sells model airplanes and cars – so they could launch them together.
“There's a pureness to playing with classic toys. They still sell because they are classic,” Shapiro said. “When you watch kids interact with each other … (Parents) want to repeat that cycle.”
Meyer's also hosts train-themed children's birthday parties, where kids can play with Lionel electric trains, play with existing track layouts or create their own. Each child can take home a blank wooden train after decorating them in the store using markers and stickers.
“People like this kind of stuff,” Shapiro said with a smile. “It's a place filled with smiles and happiness.”
is located at 35 East Northfield Road in Livingston, NJ. For more information, call (973) 740-9400 or log on to www.meyerstoys.com.