By Craig Patterson
Canada's largest privately-owned specialty toy and book retailer has aggressive expansion plans. Toronto-based Mastermind Toys will more than double its existing store base within three years, and has recently opened several locations in new Canadian markets.
The company was founded in 1984 by brothers Andy and Jon Levy, who wanted to offer shoppers a classic toy store experience. Its first location measured only 300 square feet, and sold children's software and home computers. Co-founder Jon Levy says that his store's curated collection of toys and books differentiates it from mass-market retailers, while offering a greater selection than in independent shops. It carries over 10,000 educational toys, books, games, arts and crafts, puzzles and science kits.
Mastermind Toys President Humphrey Kadaner says that the retailer plans to grow its current 34 locations to between 70 and 75 stores by the year 2018, if not before. On picking new store locations, Mr. Kadaner says: “We tend to do best where consumers have higher income, high education levels and are interested in quality toys. And the best way to measure that is to look at what the average toy spend is per household based on Statistics Canada data." Of its current 34 locations, 29 are in Ontario with 19 of them in the Greater Toronto Area. Four stores are in Alberta and soon, three will operate in British Columbia.
Mastermind Toys recently opened its first Edmonton-area store in Sherwood Park, Alberta. The store measures almost 5,000 square feet and is located in a suburban retail complex called Baseline Village. As many as six Edmonton-area stores are planned, according to Mr. Kadaner. It recently opened a third Calgary location and as many as seven Calgary-area locations are anticipated. This month, Mastermind opens two more locations in British Columbia: one in Abbotsford opens at the end of the month, while its new Coquitlam store opened last week. Its first B.C. location opened last year in Langley.
The Levy brothers partnered with Birch Hill Equity Partners in 2010, facilitating the company’s national expansion. Since that time, they've opened 25 Mastermind Toy locations. Despite numerous franchising requests, the company maintains ownership of all locations.