If you’ve ever wanted to step into the magical world of a children’s book, look no further than Park Street Books & Toys. Between the brick walls of this locally-owned shop in Medfield, MA, children’s books come alive. As soon as you walk through the door, a sense of childhood nostalgia immediately washes over you. With bright and colorful artwork adorning the walls, whimsical toys and statues hiding around every corner, and hundreds of books lining the shelves, Park Street Books & Toys is a children’s wonderland.
And it all originated from the creative mind of a preschool teacher. Jim James founded Park Street Books & Toys almost twenty years ago, hoping to spread his love of children’s books as far as possible. “It’s kind of the same world as teaching,” Jim explains. “And it’s a lot of fun. When kids get excited about books and toys, it’s fun to be a part of that.”
Whether shopping for a bedtime storybook or educational toys, Park Street Books & Toys brings the everyday bookstore experience to the next level. “We’re independent so we’re not part of a chain or an algorithm. We’ve got a great staff of people, from former teachers to teenagers, and they’re all great at what they do,” Jim conveys proudly. “It’s all about the personal touch. We know our customers well so if someone comes in and tells us about the type of books they like, we can make recommendations for them.”
In fact, Jim could talk for hours about his go-to books recommendations, from Kate DiCamillo’s The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, about a bunny that learns how to love, to Rosanne Parry’s A Wolf Called Wander, about a wolf searching for its true home. “It’s a great time to be a kid reader right now – the books being written for kids are the best ever,” Jim expresses. “Really great kids’ books are good for grownups to read too. They hit a chord and make you think about your own journey. The best books do that.”
To continue drawing in children, teenagers, and grownups alike, Jim also transformed a portion of the store into The Pottery Place, a paint-your-own pottery studio. From birthday parties to after-hour wine nights for Mom groups, the studio encourages people of all ages to embrace their creative side.
“It’s all about that human connection,” Jim says with earnest. “Without the people, my job wouldn’t really mean anything. Both the people that we work with and the customers. Everyone’s always excited to be in the store. You get to see kids grow from three years old to when they graduate college. Toys and games and books really mean a lot to kids and it’s important for their development. We’re really glad to be a part of that.”
Jim builds these connections beyond the four walls of his store as well, establishing strong relationships with school systems throughout Massachusetts. Not only do many schools depend upon Park Street Books & Toys to fill their libraries, but prior to COVID, the store was hosting almost 60 book fairs a year. “Our prices are really good and usually cheaper than what you can find online,” Jim points out. “It helps the schools so we’re able to get a lot of books into a lot of kids’ hands.”
By bringing meaningful children’s stories to so many families, Park Street Books & Toys has truly become a staple in its community, proving the test of time even during COVID. When lockdowns and COVID restrictions were at their most stringent, Jim worked alongside his daughter to continue book deliveries and curbside pick-up orders.
“It was actually really cool,” Jim reflects. “We got overwhelmed with orders. We were out sometimes until two in the morning doing deliveries, so friends started showing up to help us and deliver for us. It was a sweet and amazing thing that kept us going. We’re continuing to do what we do really well, and things will keep getting better for us and everyone else pretty soon.”
After experiencing the highs and the lows of the last year, Jim has a few words of advice to share with his fellow small business owners. “Every small business journey is different, but you have to make sure it’s something you really love. There will be times where you aren’t making money, or you hit a wall and you just want to give up. But you have to think about the purpose of what you’re doing and if it feels important to you, then you keep on pushing through,” Jim encourages. “COVID was a wall for us. You just have to push through it and keep on going.”
Without a doubt, Jim’s passion for small businesses goes unmatched. “It’s really important to support small businesses,” Jim maintains. “It’s short-term thinking to support the conglomerate online companies out there because they seem cheaper. There’s a price for everything and there’s a cost for everything. Even if it costs a little bit more to support a local business, that’s money that stays in your community. It gets paid to local employees and goes toward tax dollars that do good in your community. So, the cost of going online is actually higher.”
If you’d like to support a small business and take part in a fairytale along the way, make sure to visit Park Street Books & Toys at 504 Main Street in Medfield or online at https://parkstreetbooks.com/.