Tears ‘R’ Us: The World’s Biggest Toy Store Didn’t Have to Die

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The early tale of Toys “R” Us brims with ambition, energy, and no small amount of ruthlessness, as creation stories often do. Charles Lazarus had gone from high school straight to the U.S. Army, where he served as a cryptographer during World War II, and as he cast about for a business venture upon his return, he identified a market that was largely unexploited: kids. “Everyone I talked to said they were going to go home, get married, have children, and live the American dream,” he often recounted of those days.

 Lazarus may not have anticipated the full impact of the Baby Boom or the accompanying sprawl, malls, television, and advertising, but he took advantage of Americans’ desire to accumulate and the cultural imperative to conform. He opened the first big-box toy store, outside Washington, D.C., in 1957, then another and another, until by the mid-1980s there were more than 200 across…
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Last modified: June 13, 2018

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