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Mixing work and play

A toy store located in Clifton Park Center will retain its function but is under new ownership.

Formerly a Learning Express a national chain of toy-sellers the property was recently acquired by toy aficionado Chris Spaulding, who is in the process of restocking the store under the banner of New York Toy and Hobby and planning a grand opening for the middle of October.

Spaulding has long been in the toy retail industry, working most recently for the Burlington-based Vermont Toy and Hobby. He has also worked for larger stores like Toys "R" Us, but while his store will carry some popular products, the feel will be the opposite of big-box retail.

"Toys 'R' Us carries the hot stuff of the year. Our stuff has been around for a long time," he said. "You'll walk in here and see something from your childhood."

His inventory is to be made up of plenty of wooden products, as well as a large selection of toys in the Playmobil brand. He will also stock science kits, educational books and herds of stuffed animals.

Spaulding says he checks out every aspect of his merchandise to make sure it's the best he can get. He is mostly stocking U.S.-made items and tries to get toys made from recycled or ecologically friendly materials. He goes so far as to make sure the shipping materials can be recycled properly.

"It takes a lot of effort, but it's worth it," he said. "I just like the environment of the store, interacting with people and making them happy."

On the whole, he hopes to eclipse Learning Express' selection of products. In a few months, he plans to expand the store and also offer hobby crafts like model airplane supplies, as well.

Spaulding said he will keep a Learning Express employee on at his store and will need more manpower when he expands, but he'll be running most of the day-to-day business personally. He said that will allow him to better gauge what his customers want, look into suggestions and provide them with all the information they need.

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