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Monday, July 11, 2011

Yellow Moon Toy Company Shines On

Yellow Moon Toy Company 
Shines On:
Two locations and growing
By Mike Lauterborn
(Posted to 7/10)
© 2010. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – A bottle cap message was the inspiration to pursue her business. Now her company boasts two locations, with a third being contemplated.

Yellow Moon Toy Company. at 2268 Black Rock Turnpike, and its sister store in Milford, was the brainchild of Fairfield resident Tracey Salem. It was a concept that evolved from an initial pharmacy business that she operated in Weston with her husband, Kenny, and a partner, Jon Speicher.

“My father-in-law opened the pharmacy in the early 1970s,” the married mother of three children, ages 6, 12 and 14, said. “Kenny and I met in 1987, married in 1993 and bought the pharmacy four years later.”

The trio operated the pharmacy for 10 years, until 2007, when they sold the business to Stop & Shop. “When the lease was coming up for renewal, we couldn’t come to an agreement with the landlord,” she said.

Salem had anticipated they weren’t going to continue the lease and started making plans to pursue another business concept. “We sold toys at the pharmacy and there was a constant demand for them,” Salem said. “KB Toys was already on Black Rock Turnpike, but in trouble. They also didn’t seem to have the toys Fairfielders wanted – they were more mass market. The opportunity to open a different kind of toy store seemed ripe.”

Salem found a vacant space, that she thought was suitable, in White Birch Plaza on Black Rock Turnpike. Her husband and Speicher, however, weren’t in agreement on it. “I was doing laundry one night and a Magic Hat bottle cap, that had been left in a pair of pants, came tumbling out. Turning it over in my hand, I read the message underneath: ‘Write your own future.’ It convinced me to go forward and pursue the business on my own.”

Salem secured the 1,100-square-foot White Birch space and opened the business in 2005. The company name was suggested by her eldest child, Thomas. He was watching a cartoon and, at the end, a yellow moon was shown. “It seemed to be the perfect icon,” Salem said.

The flagship store was so well received and profitable that, in 2008, Salem opened a second location in Milford. A year later, seeking a larger space, Salem moved the Fairfield store to its current location, which offers 1,650 square feet. The railroad car-shaped wedge, nestled between Bagel King and Pier 1 Imports, contains almost 2,500 unique products.

“We offer educational games, arts and crafts,” she said. “We’re more back-to-the-basics and less trendy than the large mass toy stores.”

Besides being a resource for creative toys, Yellow Moon is a friend to the community. “We try to help every small business out there that we can,” Salem said. “For instance, we carry Planet Fuel drinks, we’re going to collaborate with The Painted Bird to do arts and crafts classes here and we do tie-ins with entertainment facilities.”

Salem said that when she does interactive events, she usually makes it about mom. “She’s really our customer,” she said. “We often see moms that are at their wits’ end – done for the day. I can sympathize with them. I have three kids in three different schools – including one in Orange – and two stores. We make shopping with us very easy, even offering drive-up curb service so people don’t have to get out of their cars.”

Salem said her customer base continues to grow, despite the recession, and believes that part of the reason for her success is a constantly fresh inventory. “I believe in turnover – selling and moving on to the next thing.” She gives credit to the town, though, too, adding, “Fairfield does a good job of supporting the little guy.”

There’s no toying with that logic.

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