PORTER | Batteries aren’t necessary for the toys found at Alice’s Garden Toy Boutique.
“We are an eco-friendly sustainable toy store,” said Tracy Melcher, who owns the shop along with husband Zach Kinsey. “The toys do not have batteries, they are kid-powered. Kids use their imagination and they are all very educational.”
Lines including Melissa & Doug, Plan Toys, Green Toys and Hape Toys can all be found at the store, which focuses on green items.
“Some toys are made from recycled milk jugs collected in California and we have lines that focus on sustainable forestry. The trees they cut down to make toys, they are planting more to take the place of the ones cut down,” Melcher said.
“Most of our lines have water-, soy- or vegetable-based inks and they use recycled packaging.”
Besides being eco-friendly, Melcher believes the toys – for children up to age 8 - are an investment for the whole family.
“The products hold up. These are very well-made pieces, they don’t just fall apart. Because the way they are produced and the quality of materials, they are designed to hold up over time,” Melcher said. “They will stand the test of time. These are toys that will be handed down to the next kid, and the next and the next.”
“Eighty percent of our toys are not sold at big-box stores,” Kinsey added. “You can see them in person, touch, feel and hold them while you may have only seen them online.”
The boutique grew from their booth at the Chesterton European Market, which included items from Melcher’s sales rep role that she continues today.
“I sell gift ware - greeting cards, jewelry, hospital gift shop items – and we thought it would be nice to spend a Saturday out in the sun together,” Melcher said. “The market didn’t have a lot of children’s items so we brought down kids’ stuff from the lines I was carrying.”
The green component developed when the husband-and-wife team realized there was a need.
“It was not just us, people were looking for green toys,” she said. “We were constantly getting requests on 'How can we find you? Where is your shop?'We started putting pen to paper and really considering the store idea and it developed and developed.”
The couple are looking to add an online store in the future for “moms who can’t leave the house while their kids are napping or customers not in the area,” Melcher said.
“We’d also like to start doing weekend events: book readings, puppet shows, magicians … something exciting and different on the weekends.”