Today we’d like to introduce you to Sam Wells & Liz McArthur.
Sam and Liz, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
We have always collected toys, action figures, and random vintage household items since we first started dating over 20 years ago. Eventually we begun selling at toy shows, conventions and online. When the opportunity presented itself to bring our idea of a brick and mortar retail shop into reality we jumped on it and haven’t looked back since!
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Well to address the “road” part, we have a pretty unique problem in our location. We started using a hashtag #WalkWestern in our social media as there seems to be a mindset that you are to use Western Ave as a main driving thoroughfare but not as a street you would walk if you don’t live in one of the neighborhoods connected to it. But there’s so many amazing shops just in our area that you could have a great day just walking the stretch of Western that our shop is on.
It starts with the 606 trail, then heading north you run into Challengers Comics, Margie’s Candies, The Green Eye, Purple Monkey Playroom, O’s Tap, The Art of Chicken, Ipsento Coffee, GBD Cakes, Saint Lucias Smoke Shop, MOPED, Red Hot Ranch, Quesadilla, Revolution Tattoo, Sideshow Gallery and ending with Logan Arcade.
That being said, we now know that the foot traffic will always make up for about 20 – 25% of our sales and the bulk of our sales comes from our regulars that stop in once or twice a week and that we know to reach out to when certain items come in. We get things to them without even having to put the items on the sales floor. So while it hasn’t been the smoothest of roads, we’re still here three years later
Toy de Jour – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Our full name is ‘Toy de Jour: Vintage, Toys, Arts & Farts’ which means our shop carries all the stuff we love. We have novelty/gag gifts like fart machines and fake blood, we have tons and tons of vintage toys and action figures focusing on but not limited to the 80s and newer, vintage household items and artwork as well as vintage clothes. We also have several art galleries throughout the year where we have a theme for a group show or an individual set up with their works as a solo show.
Our previous shows include a solo show by Kim D Simmons, one of the original photographers for Kenner that was tasked with photographing the first Star Wars action figures. Kim has recently begun selling prints of his photos at conventions and online and he was a great fit for the shop. We still carry some of his work in the shop as it’s continued to be a great seller. Some of our past group shows focused on Ghostbusters, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Stranger Things, Masters of the Universe and the one going up in May of 2017 is ‘Ladies of the 80s’, an all-female artists group show doing works based on female characters and icons from the 80s.
I’d say what sets us apart from our peers is what we’re most proud of too – our Instagram account. We have many dedicated followers as we’ve built sort of a cult following to our posts and our humor when sharing new items that come into the shop. We also ask our customers for photos of them with their purchases so we can show everyone what they missed by not stopping in. It’s gained a lot of attention as we even have a lot of people making Toy de Jour a destination from all points around the globe. There’s also a running feature we have that people randomly get photobombed by Liz when she’s around and available to do so. That’s become so popular that we get people that are sad when they walk in and realize that she’s not here and not able to be in their pictures.
We also won ‘Best Instagram Account’ in the LoganSquarist write-in category in 2016.
What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Since we are by no means a traditional business it’s hard for us to adhere to normal benchmarks we see success as doing what we’re doing while being able to continue to have fun and pay the bills. As I mentioned before we’re still here three years later with the lights still on and still very much enjoy running the shop.
We buy vintage toys so it’s always a ton of fun to see what comes through our door next. It’s our own personal version of American Pickers or Comic Book Men. If we were hard-pressed to think of a next step or goal to move towards it would be expanding with a larger space. But we’re so tied and committed to the area we’re in now, it’d be hard for us to give up our little spot we have now for something in another area.
- Address: 2064 N Western Ave, Chicago IL 60647
- Website: www.toydejour.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @toydejour
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/toy.dejour/
- Twitter: @toydejour
Main image of Sam & Liz by Justin Muggleton