Toy store aimed to inspire play
Visitors to Cardboard Castles Children’s Emporium who are used to seeing the shelves packed with a large selection of items to inspire play will be sad to see them near empty as Creemore’s popular toy store prepares to close its doors later this month.
Owner Laurie Copeland admits the decision to close the store was not made lightly and there have been some tears, on both sides of the counter.
“I have had the privilege of watching all of the children in the community grow up. That’s what I’ll take with me,” she said.
Copeland opened the store in 2006, when her daughter was two. Sadie, now 16 and sometimes found working there, grew up in the store.
Copeland says the business has been part of her family life, with husband Corey Finkelstein taking an active role. She said there was never any clear deliniation between family and work, everything blended together, and it was not unheard of that family dinner consisted of everyone coming together for take-out pizza at the store, when there was evening work to be done.
Copeland said she hadn’t realized her desire to run a toy store until she saw a children’s furnishings store by the name of Wee Wonders open on the main street, at 146 Mill St.
When that store was closing Copeland seized the opportunity to take over the lease. She laughs, recalling how she went home and said to Finkelstein, “I just bought a business.”
He wasn’t surprised, she said, laughing.
It was at that location that Copeland built the cardboard castle of her dreams, and where that iconic sign first went up. Within three weeks, Cardboard Castles Children’s Emporium was up and running. Copeland said she chose the moniker of emporium because she wanted the store to be a little bit of everything, for everybody.
“I have been true to my vision from the beginning – offering unique and affordable items that cater to the idea of play,” said Copeland.
From day one, she didn’t carry any licensed toys that people could get at the big box stores. She carried a unique selection of wooden toys, eco friendly products, and avoided a lot of plastic, all products that were trickier to find back then. The carefully curated stock is what made Cardboard Castles into a destination store for discerning shoppers.
Copeland said the community welcomed her with open arms and she eagerly got involved by joining the BIA.
Copeland also launched the Creemore Children’s Festival in 2011 and it continued to grow, attracting thousands of people to the main street, which was closed to vehicles and opened to free activities and entertainment. She said it was the realization of her dream to provide something really special for kids.
“I always thought of it as a gift back to the community,” said Copeland.
She decided not to hold the event in 2019, choosing to take a break and regroup.
Copeland said her decision to close the store isn’t about money or lack of sales. She says any perception that the business is folding is false, saying there is vitality in the community and retail can be strong although it may not make one rich.
She says the pandemic has changed retail but it is not the reason for the closure either.
“COVID definitely changed retail and how we operate. It’s sad that I can no longer hold babies that come in and give the kids high-fives, and that’s what it was all about,” said Copeland.
It is more a matter of timing.
“It is absolutely about taking some time for myself and to help launch Sadie into the world,” said Copeland.
“It’s a big commitment,” she said of running a small business. “And I was all in. I didn’t want to compromise the attention to detail.”
Copeland is retaining the name Cardboard Castles Children’s Emporium and has future plans for the brand. However, she is happy to hint at the possibility of another toy store opening in town, which she knows her customers will be happy to hear.
Contributed photo: Cardboard Castles Children’s Emporium held a ribbon-cutting in 2006 to mark the store’s opening with owner Laurie Copeland, husband Corey Finkelstein, daughter Sadie and nephew Carter Von Stackelberg.