Time­less ad­vice on a toy store ca­reer

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - JOBS & WORK - — Marco Buscaglia, Ca­reers

As the force be­hind Time­less Toys, 4749 N. Lin­coln Ave., in Chicago, Scott Fried­land spends a lot of time think­ing about the spe­cial re­la­tion­ship be­tween child­hood, ac­tiv­ity and toys. In a world where chil­dren are in­un­dated with apps and screens and phones and tablets and tele­vi­sion, Fried­man’s tra­di­tional ap­proach to play is as unique as his path to toy-store own­er­ship.

Fried­land, who lives in Chicago’s An­der­son­ville neigh­bor­hood with his wife and 2-year-old son, says his orig­i­nal “life plan” was to join the Is­raeli army af­ter study­ing in Is­rael dur­ing his fresh­man year of col­lege. The Buf­falo Grove na­tive in­stead en­rolled at In­di­ana Univer­sity and joined the school’s ROTC pro­gram, grad­u­at­ing with a degree in ki­ne­si­ol­ogy with an em­pha­sis in sports mar­ket­ing and man­age­ment in 2012.

Af­ter he grad­u­ated, Fried­land be­gan work­ing for his fa­ther’s ac­count­ing firm, Michael Fried­land, Ltd., whose clients in­cluded Time­less Toys. As the toy store’s own­ers be­gan map­ping out their re­tire­ment, Fried­land sensed an op­por­tu­nity and be­gan work­ing at the store. In Fe­bru­ary of 2016, af­ter three years of learn­ing “the toy business from the bot­tom up,” the Fried­lands formed Time­less Enterprise­s, Ltd., with pres­i­dent Michael Fried­land work­ing the store’s financials and Scott Fried­land, vice pres­i­dent, run­ning the store. In 2018, Fried­land opened cloth­ing store Time­less Tots, which will be shar­ing space with the toy store in Jan­uary. Fried­land is also the cur­rent trea­surer of the Lin­coln Square Ravenswood Cham­ber of Com­merce and will be the pres­i­dent of the as­so­ci­a­tion in 2020.

We talked with Fried­land dur­ing his busy month of De­cem­ber about his role as a store owner, his vi­sion of play, his plans for the fu­ture and his fa­vorite toy as a child:

On dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing Time­less Toys from other toy stores:

“We re­ally focus on early child­hood devel­op­ment and high-qual­ity toys that are go­ing to last you a long time. You won’t find a whole lot of things in our store that re­quire a screen or an app. You may not find the trendi­est of items in our store but we con­sider that a good thing. We’re go­ing for clas­sic toys that will stand the test of time, the kind of toys your kids will look at in 20 years and say ‘I loved play­ing with that.’”

On his clien­tele’s pen­chant for the oc­ca­sional tantrum:

“Most of the time kids cry or scream, it’s be­cause they’re leav­ing. And I know for par­ents that’s tough. They al­ways apol­o­gize to us. But for me, that’s like a badge of honor. To be hon­est, if your kid’s not act­ing that way — or at least a lit­tle sad or up­set — when leav­ing the store, we did some­thing wrong.”

On his son’s good for­tune:

“I don’t think he un­der­stands how lucky he is. He has a won­der­ful toy room at home and the ul­ti­mate toy room here. And he’s been the model for a lot of the cloth­ing we sell. He talks about daddy go­ing to the store — prob­a­bly be­cause that’s pretty much the only place I go.”

On the im­por­tance of the store’s lo­ca­tion in Lin­coln Square:

“You can’t count on be­ing a store that peo­ple have to drive to, es­pe­cially with on­line shop­ping and in the city where peo­ple don’t have cars. Peo­ple walk and peo­ple take the train and the bus, and that pro­vides a huge por­tion of our business. So many peo­ple don’t even know we ex­ist, and they just hap­pen to be walk­ing by on their way to din­ner and they’re like, ‘Look at this place!’ That’s a huge ben­e­fit for us.”

On his fa­vorite child­hood toy:

“My Hot Wheels cars were un­be­liev­able. I took them ev­ery­where as a kid. I have three older sis­ters and they car­ried around purses ev­ery­where, right? And so I thought any­thing you took with you was called a purse so I had this lit­tle brief­case that had slots for cars and that was my car purse — that’s still a joke in our fam­ily — Scott’s car purse. It was with me all the time.”

On a toy store owner’s life af­ter the holidays:

“We re­group, talk about what we can do next year, share ideas, fin­ish up our in­ven­tory counts. Things die down a lot but that’s OK be­cause it gives us a chance to make changes. Toy fairs be­gin in the new year and that’s when I start re­order­ing. And I an­a­lyze num­bers and prod­ucts and dig deep into the pre­vi­ous year’s data and re­ally focus on what our goals are for the next year.”

On the tough­est part of the job:

“Peo­ple still con­sider a qual­ity toy a lux­ury item so they some­times say, ‘you know, we prob­a­bly don’t need that right now’ and then they’ll go spend the money on a video game. The hard part of my job is try­ing to con­vince peo­ple that yes, you do need it. Or some­thing like it. Be­cause the im­por­tance of toys and play can’t be un­der­stated. It’s re­ally how your child learns be­fore they be­gin school.”

On the re­ac­tion of adults who walk into Time­less Toys:

“Peo­ple light up. They may be stressed out from work or the news but when they walk in here, it goes away. They take the time to pick things up and show them to their kids and play with them, and when they leave, I hope they think ‘You know? I’m happy I stopped there. I’m happy I did that.’”

Dur­ing this hol­i­day sea­son, Scott Fried­land shares his ca­reer ex­pe­ri­ences op­er­at­ing Time­less Toys in Chicago’s Lin­coln Square.

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