A local toy store which has quite literally played a role in bringing imagination to the homes and classrooms of thousands of children has earned national recognition.
Vernon Teach and Learn has been named 2013 retailer of the year by Neighbourhood Toy Stores of Canada (NETS) – a network of independent, specialty toy stores.
“We didn’t even know we were nominated,” said Lynella Henke, who owns the store on 30th Avenue with her husband Trevor.
“And we had several nominations.”
Deborah Cauz, of NETS, explains: “43 retail locations across Canada, retail members of NETS, compete for this award.”
The honour coincides with the couple’s 10-year anniversary of owning the business, which has been in the family even longer.
“My mom and I actually started this store in 1990,” said Lynella, who was in Grade 11 at the time.
“I loved working here.”
And she still does.
Even Trevor, who was working in engineering, left his career behind to come work in the endless aisles of brightly-coloured toys.
And of course, their two daughters live every child’s dream of owning a toy store.
“We’re just having fun,” said Lynella, who has expanded the store twice, including the most recent addition of Lollipop Lane, which offers ice cream and other sweet treats.
As a teacher resource store, the shop gets a lot of support from schools locally, across the province and even in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
“We do a lot of shipping,” said Lynella.
But it is also a favourite stop for kids big and small.
With play areas for kids, little ones love the store, and parents are equally grateful for the vast selection of unique items, especially when those last-minute gifts are needed.
“A lot of times, parents find out the night before from their child that there’s a party the next day and they need a gift,” said Trevor.
“People don’t have a lot of extra time.”
Which is why the owners and staff are dedicated to helping people find that perfect gift and they even wrap it.
Lynella and Trevor say the are grateful for all of the local residents who recognize the importance of supporting local business.
They share their recent NETS award with their customers, and have added it the trophy to their collection of business awards from the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce.
The NETS award represents top marks in several categories. They include customer service, product knowledge, merchandising, enthusiasm for the industry and partnership with supplier (carries a variety of their product and is willing to try new items and showcase them in their store).
Customers and suppliers can nominate NETS stores for the award.