A Man With a Plan
In 1981, Steve St. Pierre was attending college at the University of Texas. After 6 long years and as many majors, Steve just didn't know what he wanted to do as a career. In 1987, he took a part-time job at an eclectic toy store in Austin, when it suddenly became clear..."THIS IS WHAT I WANT TO DO!!!" So Steve moved back to his home town of Edwardsville, Illinois, and opened the first Once Upon A Toy.
With Steve at the helm, the enterprise grew to include two new stores. First came a second Once Upon a Toy location in Swansea, IL. When Steve was ready to open a third location at the St. Louis Mills Mall in 2003, these two stores changed their names to LagoonaMagoo Toys. The original Once Upon a Toy moved from its first location and into its iconic purple home with the giant TOY sign on Highway 159 in Edwardsville.
New Players in Charge
After many years of ruling his little toy empire, Steve was ready for a change in scenery. Shawntá Ray, a long-time employee of Once Upon a Toy, leapt at the opportunity to take the reins of the business. In 2006 she and her husband, Rick Harmon, purchased the business and gathered the three stores under the name of Happy Up Inc.
Rick and Shawntá became the proud parents of bouncing baby Rigby in June of 2008. 2012 saw the addition of another baby to the family - Dempsey. Together, Rigby and Dempsey have established themselves as primary toy-testers and heirs to the Happy Up kingdom. Rick and Shawntá have always been playful people-- with their two boys leading the way, they began looking at play from a completely new direction.
Because they are parents as well as business-owners, our fearless leaders make sure the Happy Up stores are offering the best toys in the world. Literally.
Ch-ch-ch-Changes (aka the Toy Store Shuffle)
The LagoonaMagoo store in Swansea relocated to O’Fallon, IL and began to suffer growing pains. With an eye to future expansion, the store moved to Fairview Heights, IL and opened for business in 2009. With a Giant Rubber Chicken greeting every person who walked in the door, the new LagoonaMagoo Toys location was ready to rock.
Meanwhile, the St. Louis Mills LagoonaMagoo Toys began to falter. Declining foot-traffic at the Mills and other factors turned the location into a losing proposition. At the beginning of 2012, the plan was to find a new home for a Missouri LagoonaMagoo Toys. A search for a new location began well before the lease was up. Unfortunately, an ideal space didn’t become available in time and the St. Louis Mills LagoonaMagoo Toys closed.
Happily, a charming little storefront in downtown Clayton, MO became available later in the year. In October 2012, the Missouri LagoonaMagoo Toys re-opened with a smaller, more nimble business model in place. The Clayton location is considered a “boutique” location, offering our absolute favorite toys and games, and an ever-shifting stock of new and exciting arrivals.
After many years of a lackluster economy, the toy stores had changed to reflect the new retail landscape. Streamlining operations, keeping a tighter rein on inventory, and adjusting other aspects of the business, the toy stores were holding their own. The downturn in the economy was crushing many Mom & Pop operations right and left.
After some hard considerations, it became clear the LagoonaMagoo Toys in Fairview Heights, IL wasn’t pulling it’s weight. So to make sure that all the hard work of the previous years wouldn't be washed away by an underperforming store, Rick and Shawntá made a very difficult decision. The Fairview Heights store would need to close.
Everyone was sure this closure would get things headed in a better direction. Until the other shoe dropped.
In March 2013, the bank called in their loan and demanded payment in full. Stunned, our fearless leaders felt sure this was the end of the road.
Beacons of Hope
Once word got out that the toy stores may be forced to close, a loyal and energetic band of customers and community members sprang into action. They flatly refused to let the stores close without a fight. Through a crowdsourcing fund drive and massive media attention, enough money was raised to appease the bank and give the stores a second chance. A more detailed description of what happened is posted on our old blog: The Monsters are Giddy.
It wasn't just individuals that chipped in to raise the funds, it was also local businesses. We have a list of the merchants and businesses that supported the drive on our old blog: Love Your Locals Pt 1 and Love Your Locals Pt 2. This action by businesses large and small became the inspiration behind Once Upon a Town.
Becoming Happy Up Inc.
With a second chance firmly in hand, Rick and Shawnta' made two more huge decisions. First, they chose to move the Edwardsville location from the beloved purple building to our current storefront on Edwardsville Crossing Drive. This represented a huge reduction in rent, so was a good thing on paper. It broke everyone's hearts just a little to leave behind the giant TOY sign. The sadness is eased knowing Giant Chicky has a forever home again.
The next biggie was changing the name.
After lots and lots of thinking and debate, it became clear that our second chance demanded a fresh start. By letting go of two store names and the corporate name as separate entities, we have been able to gather everything under one name. A more complete explanation is on our blog, What's in a Name?
Now, we are Happy Up Inc.
To the Future
So what's next? We Play!
We create our own line of slow-rise squishies and name it Cuddle Jones. We develop our own line of baby toys. We invent and evolve. We adapt and thrive!
All retailers know they couldn't exist without the support of their customers. Our story is a little more dramatic than most. We are thankful each and every day for the love and support we receive from our communities and our customers.