New Britain

Puzzle Business Picks Up for Toy Shop Amid Coronavirus Quarantine

The owner of a New Britain toy store created a puzzle vending machine for customers after his store was closed.

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“We’re just getting bored at home,” said Kathy Kinney as she looked at a store front filled with puzzles.

Like many people, Kinney and her son Jeremy don’t get out of the house much these days.

“We’re sick of being on our phones all the time,” Jeremy added.

They came down to Amato’s Toy and Hobby shop to pick out a few puzzles on Friday.  They couldn’t go inside.  Non-essential businesses are closed.  Luckily, they didn’t have to.

“If you can’t see it, you can’t buy it,” said Steven Amato, owner of the toy shop.

So, Amato came up with what he calls a “puzzle vending machine.”

“Let’s put them right up against the glass.  Put the numbers on them so everybody can see it, and it’s worked,” he explained.

This vending machine is people powered.  Amato and his wife take down the number associated with the puzzle a particular customer wants, finds it inside, and brings it out, after ringing the customer up.

Board games and Legos are in the window too, but the puzzles have proven to be popular.

“We try to pick out something that’s not too easy,” said Maria Erikson of Bristol.

Ninety minutes after opening Friday morning, Amato said he’d already sold two dozen puzzles through curbside pickup.

From seascapes to famous sites, the puzzles can take you to places that right now, you can only dream of visiting.

Cheryl Joslyn said this is the first time she’s been out of her home in five weeks.

“Actually very bored. You know, how clean can you get your house,” Joslyn laughed.

She needs an escape now, more than ever.

 “Nowhere to go, nothing to do,” she added.

Amato questioned how inessential toys are at a time of self-quarantine.

“We sell stuff that keeps people sane," he pointed out.

“It’s just something to bring the family together,” added Kinney.

 Amato said he’s glad to own a business that can bring a little bit of joy to families during such an uncertain time.

 “Mostly we’re dealing with the happy side of life and I get to be Santa Claus at Christmas,” he joked.

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