When Lindy Sanesberry came back from London in 1975 she could not believe that Auckland had no educational toyshops. So she decided she would open one. She started to look for premises and put ads into the Herald for educational toys and puzzles. All sorts of people contacted her but she only choose the best of the local toys and her husband got her an import licence, which was a must in those days and very difficult to get. She found premises in Parnell Village next to the sweet shop. What a combination!
The name Jacks Toy Company came from the Children’s stories, Jack and the Bean stork and Jack and Jill.
The new shop was tiny but stocked with the very best of educational toys. Buzzy Bees $3.99, Mary Lou, Brightway puzzles and stacking pegboards, Ian Town puzzles, shoelace dolls and jolly jacks, Fisher-Price, Glovepuppets, Matchbox Cars, My own Dolls, Paddington Bears and Wombles, Games and lots more. The Jacks logo was designed by graphic designer Ian Town who was also a toymaker. The funny thing is now the Jack looks just like him.
Matchbox toys and Fisher-Price one could only get once a year and one needed an import licence! No problem for Jacks one of the husbands was the late Jim Fletcher.
Pretty soon the shop proved too small and nothing next door was available, so Libby and Lindy decided to open another shop and found the perfect place in St Heliers which Libby ran. She and I used to have selling challenges and I nearly always won!
However having two shops proved to be a lot of work and after 2 years Lindy wanted out, so Libby bought her out and the two of us carried on as a wonderful team. Parnell in those days was exciting as Saturday trading had just started there, the first place in New Zealand. All the trendies shopped there.
The Parnell lease was coming up for renewal and the shop was too small, so Libby looked around and she found a little shop at the back of the Remuera Mall, and we moved there in Oct 1980. Quite quickly the new shop was too small but the shop next door was empty so she leased that as well. It was fantastic to extend the shop, the extra area paid for its self quite quickly. When the time came to renew the lease in St Heliers Libby decided that she wanted more time to herself so she did not renew it besides, she always said that having two shops was more trouble then the profit they made. It was better to have a larger shop in one area.
Then one day out of the blue, Libby offered me the opportunity to buy the shop as she wanted to go overseas. Well, that was fantastic, just what I always wanted. But where does one get that sort of money? I had saved a bit and I HAD to have the shop so I wrote to our family in the UK. My stepmother in law was so happy with the opportunity she gave me some money and Libby was happy that she had the right person for the shop that she left the balance in, to be paid off over 3 years.
Fantastic my dream came true!!
To pay Libby back quickly I had started to make Teaching Books, they were really a work of Art and all the Remuera Grandmothers had to have one and so did Lady Beatty the then Governor General’s wife.
Everything was going my way. Prince Charles and Lady Di with the future heir to the throne, baby prince William came to Auckland. And Lady Beatty ordered a book for the little prince and also needed a Buzzy Bee. But at the time they were very scarce as the company had just changed hands and the guy McLucky was not in the swing of things yet. Actually, he did not care if the prince got a Buzzy Bee or not!!
As luck would have it a customer who had bought a Buzzy Bee some time ago brought it back, as the child already had one, well that was fantastic, the prince was to have a Buzzy Bee after all. Lady Beatty was over the moon with our service.
Christian and I delivered the order and Lady Beatty showed us around Government House. We felt Great!
The whole episode did us the world of good. No advertising could have achieved what our personal service had delivered. My teaching books just took off, but now they all wanted the child’s name written in felt on the front just like “Prince Williams Book” Even working day and night couldn’t fulfil the orders quickly. All sorts of cheap versions started to come on the market. But there was only one “Hot” book. Just think one of my books in the future King of Englands Attic!! You could write a story.
Jacks Toy Company has always had special toys and if we can get something exclusive we do. We Never Compete, We Always Lead. Many have copied but they have all failed. The reason? They don’t give the service with a smile and their heart is not in it. We love what we do. We are Passionate!
In 1989 my son Christian joined the business full time. He started from the bottom up. Unpacking boxes, filing, you know what I mean, and of course Christian has the computer skills which his mother has to achieve yet. Christian and I work as a team. Christian does the advertising and the spreadsheets, plus all the posters and all the graphics when required. He is a great artist, Jacks needs him. He is also very good with the spoiled and difficult customers, though he had to prove himself first. That is Remuera! We have all the most challenging customers.
Remuera has a lot of wealthy people and they expect the best. All the big toys have to be delivered, everything has to be assembled and the customers expect and receive instructions when required. The singularly most expensive toy we have ever sold was a Fantastic replica Formula One Race Car, Child size that came from Itay at $2500, we have also sold Limited Edition Stieff Teddy Bears at $1850 nowadays we have exclusive dollhouses, rocking horses and Kauri Noahs Arks. Just Fantastic! Of course, we also have the affordable bread and butter lines but they are the top of the range.
In 1994 Jacks Toy Company won the inaugural Lego Retailers award. We are very proud of this win, especially when we have customers commenting that they can see why we won.
We are happy to offer terrific service and have the top range of products.
Jacks aim is to have the first Toy shop on Mars!
You want the best, shop at Jacks Toy Company where quality and service are important.
Jacks Toy Company has such a good name that Mercury Energy asked permission to use a Teddy and our name in one of their advertisements that appeared in Time Magazine, The New Zealand Herald, Metro and the Listener. What better advertising can you get?!!
We are the only toy business in Auckland, perhaps even New Zealand that has been under the same ownership for over 25years.
Despite, Computers and the electronic toy fads, we have stayed with the fun and educational toys and cater for the grandparents and aunts and uncles as much as the parents.
In 1999 we moved from the back of the Remuera Mall to a better position by the stairs, and then as of April 1st 2006, we were forced to leave the Mall, when the owners, demanded an outrageous 33% rent increase!!
Over the years the toy industry and toy marketing have changed a lot. We now do toy presentations to kindergartens, children’s music groups and various other organisations, and we intend to service the niche market of ageing babyboomers more. We have a few more ideas up our sleeves as well.
If you want anything demonstrated like juggling or yo-yo-ing (he also built this website) Christian is the guy for it, he also assembles everything we sell for our customers and can explain just about any game. The kids just love him.
The Reason for our success has been summed up by one of our customers “Service with two smiles”
In 2006, as a reward for long years of stability in the Remuera Mall, the Landlord decided that rather than the usual 10%+ rental increase that Jacks Toy Company recieved every three years, that a 33%+ rental increase was the order of the day. After a long and heartfelt discussion, Ruth and Christian decided that the best idea for both themselves and their customers was to move on.
Jacks Toy Company has since become a travelling toy store with Ruth packing up the toys and travelling to long-established customers, kindergartens, daycare centres and the like. Christian still assembles and delivers larger products, and spends a great deal of time working on the Jacks Toy Company website.
They have never changed their phone number in 30+ years and can still be contacted by phone, or now by email.
Thinking toys? Talk to Jacks!
By the way the Buzzy Bee is now $39.95