Update: Sadly we learned that The Cute Little Shop closed their physical doors on Jan 5, 2015 but you can still buy from them online offering free pickup and shipping with gift wrapping.
If you are like me and sometimes dread a trip to Toys”R”Us, listen to how I discovered a much better alternative, right in the heart of Frisco. The Cute Little Shop, a specialty toy store located at Main & Teel, offers a wonderful variety of children’s toys and gifts from all over the world.
I had the pleasure of spending some time with the owner, Dorine Ad, this week, and gained valuable insight to quality and educational toy selection. Without compromising on price!
Originally from Lebanon, now a resident of Texas for 11 years, Dorine first started an online business here. Then, in 2010, she and her husband decided to open the store.
Although trained as a graphic designer, it was her experience as a volunteer with the children’s Red Cross in war-torn Lebanon that inspired her passion for quality and long-lasting toys. In particular, her work with special needs children helped her to recognize how important creativity and play are for kids, and the value of taking time out of our busy lives to just get on the floor to build, learn, and create with our kids. “Roll the cars, get crafty, and go build that train station with blocks as a family instead of always resorting to electronics,” she says.
On entering the store, I was immediately drawn to a very large Melissa & Doug display. Dorine explained that The Cute Little Shop is the biggest retailer of the brand in North Texas and, if there is a particular piece you are looking for that she doesn’t have in stock, she can source it in just a few days. I was also introduced to the infant and toddler Melissa & Doug line called K’s Kids.
Winding through the various aisles, I saw toys that I had never seen before but that spoke of quality, durability and creation.
“Every toy is tested by my staff and me. We take the time to look at all the detail and my goal is to source brands that promote motor skills, imagination and creativity,” she explains. “If it doesn’t pass my expectations, it doesn’t appear on the shelves and it’s that simple. Every toy has a reason and a purpose.” She believes a toy should not only enhance a child’s education and learning, but also be durable enough to pass down through the family, or to become a collector’s item. A lot of these items you will just not find in other stores.
Dorine often looks for products that both girls and boys can play together: brothers and sisters, families and cousins, or friends and neighbors. One example is the Laser Pegs line, which are a Lego-compatible block, offering greater flexibility to construction projects. An added bonus: The end product can become a night-light for kids!
GoldieBlox is a name I myself had heard in the mommy circles, and, having two girls, this product certainly sparked my interest. These toys introduce a story-telling aspect to construction sets, to encourage problem-solving and inspire future female engineers.
The Cute Little shop is a proud Blue Ribbon Retailer of Breyer, producer of model horses and tons of accessories. Hape toys are made from bamboo and wood, and painted using soy ink. Another brand that really caught my attention was Zeenie, the Eco-Warrior line. Forget Barbie and Monster High, these girl dolls are made with a purpose, bringing awareness to young girls about the earth and environment, and are all manufactured from recycled materials.
Arts and Crafts have been exploding onto the market for the past year and will continue to do so. This store offers a multitude of alternatives to the Loom Band craze. Craftastic offers grown-up style crafts for tweens interested in learning skills like crochet and knitting. The Red Toolbox offers real tools, scaled to size for younger hands, to help dad or grandpa in his workshop, or with odd jobs around the home.
In addition to all of this you can find a vast selection of books and jigsaw puzzles for every age, dress-up costumes, brainteasers, science experiments, collectibles, musical items and an array of quality cuddly toys, including the favorite Beanie Babies and, of course, a dedicated Frozen area.
Dorine recognizes the larger stores are convenient, offering the option to buy a toy while already doing the grocery shopping. But where are the staff to make recommendations and assist with the actual toy experience? Dorine hires employees that are genuinely interested in her passion to provide a quality toy experience and are willing to assist customers with any search or question.
Being a frugal shopper myself, I took note of the prices along the way and they are extremely competitive. She has repeat customers, almost zero returns and no brand line she stocks has had a recall.
The store has also set aside an area for home furnishings, where Dorine and her partner, Cheryl Pemberton, source items and sell at wholesale prices, passing their discounts on to the customer. Console tables, mirrors, lamps, pictures and beautiful pottery pieces are available, all at prices you won’t match in the larger chains.
Throughout the year, the store hosts various themed events for the Frisco community, all of which are free. Frozen Movie night, as you can imagine, was particularly popular back in October.
Frisco seemed the obvious choice to locate the store and, while Dorine admits the growth is overwhelming at times, she is extremely passionate about support for small local business in our city.
Time and time again someone drops into the store by chance and is totally surprised by what they find, particularly when it is a unique product. Notable at this time of year, too, is their free gift wrapping service.
There truly is something for everyone here. Check out The Cute Little Shop for last-minute gifts and stocking fillers. I promise you will not be disappointed.