Chapter closes on toy sales in Stawell

STAWELL - The closure of Toyworld has left a hole in the business heart of Stawell and a hole in the collective hearts of generations of customers that passed through the door of 92 Main Street.

Kath Odd closed her shop for the final time New Year's Eve after 34 years and nine months selling toys and games to the people of Stawell and surrounds.

She said many tears were shed as she joined friends and fellow retailers in celebrating a journey that began with the opening of the business on March 27, 1979.

"It was very emotional, but I was able to celebrate with friends and retailers," she said.

"It leaves a big hole in the business trade. I leave with great sadness knowing that there is going to be an empty shop."

Mrs Odd said the most enjoyable aspect for her had been the interaction with the customers she served.

"I've had customers that have grown up who were children when I opened and now have children of their own," she said.

Many of Toyworld's loyal customers took to social media on New Year's Eve to show their appreciation.

A Facebook post paid tribute to her years of service and was liked by more than 80 people, many of whom wrote their own messages of support.

"Kath has seen many of us grow up and now sees our own kids grow up," the post read.

"She has supported us through everything and has always shown great customer service, whether it is for a gift for our own kids or for a party.

"You will be sadly missed Kath. Thank you for everything and you and yours will never be forgotten."

Mrs Odd said the toy business has been particularly stable in her time, with the biggest change being the move to electronics. She said despite that, there are some toy lines that remain just as popular today, as 30 years ago.

"I created a big customer base with my range of jigsaws. Barbie Dolls, Lego and Tonka have, and will always be popular."

Mrs Odd has been a vocal and passionate local business owner witnessing change - both good and bad.

"I've loved it and the good times have far outweighed the bad times," she said.

One of most difficult times occurred in the early 90s when the business had to effectively start again. The Odds were forced to regroup and re-buy the Toyworld name.

Their determination, coupled with the support of the Stawell community, is what got them through and Mrs Odd has encouraged people to continue to get behind local businesses.

"It is so important people continue to shop locally and support the local businesses, they are what keep our town going."

Mrs Odd said she believed she had been largely unaffected by the move to online retailing and the casual relationship she developed with people helped build and retain the customer base.

"We never had strict rules or guidelines for our lay-by customers, we have always been very flexible," she said.

"It is really devastating to think that there is now no toy shop in town, but I can't stick around just because of that."

One customer made her first lay-by 34 years ago and has taken out a lay-by every year since.

"She has become one of my best friends and her eldest son himself has since become a father," she said.

"I got my original lay-by book out and I said to her you were my first lay-by customer... and you know what, she could remember what those items were."

In the meantime Mrs Odd continues the hard task of clearing the shop, packing up and offering existing toys to other businesses.

The remaining toys will be donated to charity before Kath joins her husband, Peter in retirement.

"We would like to travel, but the main thing is for us to be together 24 hours a day, seven days a week for the rest of our lives," she said.

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