Steve Josephson's first experience in retail was working in his dad's candy shop in Pelham Bay in the Bronx, working behind the soda fountain. "I could make a great egg cream," he says. "I was a soda jerk before I became a toy jerk."
That transition from root beer floats to toys and games came after he graduated from high school in 1969. "I told my dad I wanted to change things into a toy store. I started working with a supplier in Brooklyn who I still do business with, and started selling toys at the candy shop.
Josephson soon discovered he had a knack for sensing what toy was going to be hot, as well as the ability to get it from distributors. "Whatever the 'must have' item was, people knew I'd have it, whether it was for the holidays or someone's birthday. And if they needed more than one, like for a party, they knew I could supply them."
Josephson's Toy Box empire eventually grew to seven stores, including the current location in Mamaroneck which he acquired when his best friend Marc Langus died in 1996. Now it's the one location that continues, and the 4,000-plus square foot store is packed with everything kids, whatever their age, could desire.
Although toys, especially the electronic ones, become more sophisticated every year, in Josephson's opinion, the more things in the toy world change, the more they stay the same. "I've seen trends come and go and they always come back to basics," he says. "Believe it or not, board games are more popular than ever."
Toy Box also carries outdoor equipment, like sleds in the winter and water guns in the summer. A new service will allow customers to call in an order and have it ready for pickup when they arrive. Free gift wrapping, a godsend for last minute shoppers, has always been a Toy Box staple.
When asked for the secret to his longevity and success, Josephson's answer is short and simple: "We know our customers and give them individual service, and treat them like friends."