Vivienne Marincowitz has expanded her kids’ goodies empire and she and her daughter and son-in-law, Jessica and Russel Hugo now own four toy and dress-up shops around the city. But the Parkview site remains at the heart of it all.
I had been in architecture for 27 years, and I was fed up; I thought I would go mad if I had to draw any more buildings. One night, 13 years ago, I said to my husband, “I want to buy Judy’s toy shop!” I didn’t even know it was for sale. But the next day, I went to speak to her, and she confided in me that she had cancer and was thinking about selling, so it was just meant to be, for both of us.
Three years ago, I split the toy shop and the dress-up and ballet shop into two separate spaces on Tyrone Avenue, and then in 2014 we opened our shop in Craighall, and last year we opened another in Morningside.
Why did you choose this area to set up shop?
The bicycle and toy shop was already in place when I bought it. We live in the area, and I was a frequent visitor because of my own children.
How did you find your premises?
When I took over from Judy, I took over her lease and stock, and she trained me up. We approached the centre management in Morningside to open our shop there, and my son-in-law’s family owns the Video Spot in Craighall, and they suggested we open a toy shop in their centre.
Why are they ideally suited to your business?
The Parkview shop is ideal because we’re a part of the community. Everyone knows everyone and there are lots of children in the area, so we know our customers very well. We are also a destination shop for people who are looking for ballet supplies, so it helps that we are in a well-known street with a visible shopfront.
Who are your neighbours?
We’re on the lovely Tyrone Avenue retail strip, so we have restaurants and shops all around us. We are under Franco’s Pizzeria & Trattoria and near Art Africa.
They are favourable compared with bigger retail centres.
How many people go through your store each day?
It’s very seasonal. We get a lot of customers when ballet exam time comes around. During Halloween, we hire six extra employees because it gets so busy. We also see an increase around school dress-up days. And our Jewish customers all come in around Purim. But in November and December when Johannesburg clears out and all the school concerts are over, it can get very quiet. Fortunately, our toy shops do well ahead of Christmas.
Do you have any expansion plans?
We’ve just been expanding into all these other locations, so while my daughter is keen to open another store, I would rather take it easy for a while. But we have been focusing on taking the entire range from all our stores online, and rebranding all our stores as Kiddie Ma-Jigs. It’s very exciting for us.
It’s just got up and running, kiddiemajigs.co.za.
What’s your most popular item?
Whenever there’s a new children’s movie, we sell a lot of costumes as a result. So right now there’s a Supergirl series, so we’re making that costume. Elsa from Frozen still flies out of our stores. Fairies, Spiderman, Superman and Batman always do well. And I’m working on a design for a Ninjago character at the moment.
Words: Georgina Guedes