NJ family keeps Toy Market surviving through pandemic

HAMMONTON, N.J. (WPVI) -- The spirit of Christmas is thriving within the walls of a South Jersey toy shop despite their struggles to survive the pandemic.

"The last couple weeks before Christmas make or break a holiday for a toy store," said Kelly Donio, the founder and owner of Toy Market in Hammonton and Smithville.

Donio calls on her children, Matthew, Juliet, and Amelia, to be Santa's little helpers around the shop.

"I have three kids that tell me a lot of things to do with my business," she said. "They give me a lot of suggestions."

Donio credits her children for the inception of Toy Market a decade ago.

"It sort of happened serendipitously," Donio said. Formerly the owner of an all-purpose gift shop, her catalogue changed when she became a mom.

"I started having children and I realized my toy section started to grow as my family started to grow," she said.

Now in its 10th year of business, Toy Market has survived the surge of online shopping, corporate toy stores, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Donio quickly moved many of her sales online earlier this year. But she says it's the personalized shopping experience that keeps the community supporting her business.

"It's more intimate," said Audrey Griess, a returning customer from Hammonton. "I thought it was actually nice to get out of the house and I also like to support small business."

Some travel out of their hometowns just to enjoy the in-person shopping experience.

"There's just none like these anymore, anywhere," said Michele Davis, who commuted from Blackwood, New Jersey to visit. "It's got different things for the kids to use their imaginations again and not just technology."

It's the faithful customers that make Kelly Donio hopeful for this holiday season and the new year in 2021.

"We need to have these traditions and we need to keep that spirit alive," she said.

To learn more about Toy Market, visit their website.

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