There are lights on the tiny tree and a carousel and ferris wheel that move. The whole miniature scene in the window of S.W. Randall Toyes and Giftes sits on a blanket of snow.
Once — when there were department stores Downtown — there were other windows like it. But now that Macy’s is closed, the toy store’s window is “the only one like it,” owner Jack Cohen said.
There have been a few minor changes from year to year, but Cohen said he has perfected the display. From inside his store, he can see the people who pause to look at it.
“You’ll have 20 people out there stopped and staring,” Cohen said.
Inside S.W. Randall, an instrumental version of “What Child Is This?” plays on the packed first floor (there are three — including one dedicated to dolls) as a toy chatterbox shouts at people walking by.
It’s basically a Christmas movie.
The store has been there for 38 years, and Cohen said Downtown shoppers have different habits from his shoppers at its 46-year-old Squirrel Hill location.
It’s busiest between noon and 2 p.m. at the Downtown location when office workers are on their lunch breaks, Cohen said, adding that there are fewer office workers than there used to be, but the busy time remained the same.
At the holidays — which Cohen said starts about Nov. 1 — the flurry of activity brings in more people, especially on Sundays.
“There are so many things going on [Downtown] that kept it alive,” he said of his store. Cohen said as Light Up Night grows, so does his traffic.
Plus, the store has regulars who come back year after year with their families.
Cohen said they tell him “Don’t change a thing!”
Holiday gift recommendations
The secret to S.W. Randall’s success is that it offers toys that the big box stores don’t have, Cohen said.
There are toys that any kid would love from a farmer on a tractor with a trailer full of animals to dinosaurs, penguins and rocking horses.
There’s a myPad ($29.95) and myPhone ($19.95) from the brand Mirari that came in late last year and are very popular, Cohen said. He added that the phone has a small sort of remote that “Mom can push to make the phone ring.”
The store also has classics that can’t be found elsewhere, he said. Take the tin tops ($8.95), he said. Kids love them, but some don’t know what a top is.
If a child can’t take their eyes off of a toy, that’s how you know it’s a good one, said Cohen, who can’t pick a favorite toy.
S.W. Randall Toyes and Giftes is located at 630 Smithfield St., and is open 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. today and Wednesday. The store is closed on Thanksgiving. Starting on Black Friday, it will be open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday for the holiday season.
P.S. Parking in all Pittsburgh Parking Authority garages is free on Black Friday and every Saturday until Christmas.