Classic toy store to open downtown

Posted: Friday, April 25, 2003

When Alicia and Roger Smith had the first of their two children three-and-a-half years ago, they did more than just extend their family. They also gave birth to a business plan.

"There's so many great toys out there that we couldn't find in town, that we had to search out on the Internet or something," Alicia Smith said.

The Smiths, Juneau residents since 1982, saw the need for a toy store. They had a longtime dream of owning a shop downtown and plan to open Juneau's Imagination Station Saturday.

Located in the Senate Building, the store has toys from "so many places," said Alicia Smith. About one-third of the toys are from Juneau or Alaska, including wood toys, dolls, games and some baby items.

Toys from mainstream America, such as Bob the Builder, Curious George and Erector sets, are also at the store.

Very few of the toys are electric, and the store will sell no video games, said Roger Smith.

"We really wanted to bring more of the classic toys and educational toys to Juneau that aren't here now," he said.

The couple, with the help of both of their families, began planning for the store last August. They visited several toy shows in Alaska and down south and moved into their 1,000-square-foot South Franklin Street location in March.

A downtown location was important to the Smiths, they said.

"We love downtown Juneau," Alicia Smith said. "It's still a local spot. It's so charming, it's old and it's wonderful. We wanted to be here for the people that live downtown and in Douglas."

The store will be open year-round, and will have several programs for local kids starting in the fall, including a birthday club and reading hours.

"We just wanted to be the kind of place where on a Saturday afternoon when the family's out and about they can say 'Hey, let's go to the Imagination Station,' and they know they'll have a good time," Alicia Smith said.

Roger Smith plans to continue to work full time as an engineer for Murray and Associates when the store opens, but will spend much of his free time at the store. Alicia Smith will work full-time at the store with the help of six part-time employees.

Alicia Smith's mother, Carole Rotola, painted a mural on the walls of the store.

"We tried to create sort of an Alaska wonderland-type feel to it," Alicia Smith said.

Roger's mother, Joyce Smith, a former elementary school teacher in Juneau, helped the couple pick out educational toys.

"A lot of these things are directed to helping the brain learn through creative thinking and imagination," said Joyce Smith. The toys, "help the children grow so that they're ready to learn."

Alicia and Roger Smith came up with the name for their store, the Imagination Station, about a year ago, but added "Juneau's" to the title to avoid confusion.

"We came up with this great name, we loved it, we were totally attached to it, and then we found out there were other stores around the country with the same name," Alicia Smith said.

Imagination Station is the name of a theater company in California, several children's museums and a children's drawing show on public television.

Juneau's Imagination Station will have a grand-opening celebration on Saturday and Sunday, May 3 and 4. The store is at 175 South Franklin St., and the Smiths can be reached at 586-TOYS.

• Christine Schmid can be reached at cschmid@juneauempire.com.



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