This summer, Toys "R" Us officially joined Circuit City, Blockbuster, and RadioShack on the growing list of now-extinct brick-and-mortar retail stores that were fixtures of 1980s and 90s America. Amazon's tidal wave has wiped them out one by one, with more inevitably to come. Toys "R" Us feels a little different, though, than all the rest. For so many of us, it was always some kind of temporary, wondrous escape.
Joanna Kulesza and I are fascinated with dying retail in the Amazon era, so we decided to document the last days of this nostalgic wonderland. We weren’t sure what to expect from the store or the patrons, but there was generally a positive response from both employees and customers. Many were happy to be photographed, or to have their children photographed. Time and again, we heard some variation of, “I went to Toys 'R' Us as a child all the time and want my kids to be able to have one last experience.”
The juxtapositions in a giant closing toy store are fascinating and surreal: caution tape, barren aisles, and 70-percent-off signs with giant displays of the Monopoly man. The paint was dated and peeling, and the playful signage hung over barren floors stained and cracked by years of existence. A picture of Geoffrey the Giraffe overlooked a baby section devoid of everything except shelves—and, of course, directions on how and why you should purchase the shelves at a highly discounted rate. —Andy Sarjahani
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