small business

Local Toy Store Forced to Close Due to Supply Chain Problems

The owners of JoJo's Toys and More say they dreamed of opening a store to one day give to their son

NBC Universal, Inc.

Supply chain problems may be hitting your wallet in a variety of ways, but the high price of products has forced the owners of a mom-and-pop business to halt their dream, and close the doors of their new store.

Stepping into a toy store evokes wonder and imagination.

“This is huge, I can’t believe this is actually real!” Levi Lombardi, an 8-year-old shopper, said while marveling at a toy.

It gives the sense that anything is possible, which is why JoJo’s Toys and More is one of Lombardi’s favorite stops.

“This new store is one of the best toy stores,” he said.

The small store in Newington evokes those same emotions for its owner, Eliah Lefferts.

 “Our vision was to bring joy to the community, to bring the magical element that's missing in a big box store,” he said. “To give people the hands-on family experience. We wanted to know everybody's names.”

Lefferts made that dream come true, moving his family from southern California back to the state where he grew up: Connecticut. They opened the store in May, and Lefferts named it after his 5-year-old son, JoJo.

“The best kid in the universe!” he said. “He’s a really sweet kid. He's a good guy. And he has autism, so we've been very well supported in the community.”

The toy store quickly became beloved.

“This was our home, and everyone was invited,” Lefferts said.

Yet just five months later, an open sign is missing now from the front door.

Things started to get tough when Lefferts was still waiting for toys he had ordered in April months later.

“To this day I have product that I ordered in June that is still not here,” he said.

Ultimately, the big supply chain issues became too much for the small, family-owned business. When the cost of buying products went up, the owners had to spend three times as much as is typical to purchase the toys on the shelves.

“It was costing us $3.74 for one of these pop toys before,” Lefferts said. “The last order we got, this pop toy, $12.99. My cost. $12.99. In order to keep the lights on and maybe have a little food in my pocket, I have to sell it for 26 bucks! And I told my wife, ‘we just can’t, don’t even put them out.’”

Last week, they made the tough decision to close for good.

“It is very challenging. We're having sleepless nights. It's a lot,” Lefferts said.

The supply chain, now chaining the family to debt.

“Everything we had went into this place and, and more,” Lefferts said.

It is also leaving a gap in the community as people start to learn the endearing shop is closing its doors.

“I’m going to kind of be sad,” Lombardi said, after learning about the closure during an impromptu visit Wednesday.

Lefferts and his wife Priscilla are now looking for jobs, and hope to maybe one day pursue their dream anew. For now, the biggest hole might be in his heart, where the dad had left a space for hope that his shop might one day belong to his son.

“We just wanted to have something for him, to leave for him. And, you know, he's just a kid,” Lefferts said. “There is no escaping the supply chain, the costs, you know, that's what it is now. But for him, we wanted to give this to him in the long run. And look, that's a lofty goal thinking we could be around that long. But why not?”

Even though their store is closing, the family plans to continue living in Newington.

JoJo’s Toys and More will be open one last time on Saturday, October 23. The store on Fenn Road in Newington will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. There will be discounts, an appearance from a famous cartoon villain, a final celebration, and sales until the toys are gone.

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