In today’s WiFi-enabled, battery-operated world, there is still something truly appealing about a handmade toy.
That appeal and the desire to see more quality toys available to young minds is what encouraged Melissa Beese to launch her subscription-based toy company, Little Pnuts, in 2012. Since then, Beese’s company has been so successful in filling this niche that she will be celebrating the one-year anniversary of her company’s brick and mortar location next month.
Little Pnuts Toy Shoppe opened on Harrison Avenue in March 2015, after the company had grown too big to continue running out of Beese’s house. The Lakeview location is a 1,000-square-foot destination for quality toys and games that Beese herself has curated to meet the demands of children’s developmental milestones from infancy through age 15.
“I have noticed that people are really looking at the toys they give their children, and they want quality,” explains Beese, a mother of two boys. “We’re moving away from the battery-operated toys that never stop singing as people become more interested in providing their kids with something that will keep them engaged and entertained for more than 15 seconds.”
Beese’s first son was born at only 24 weeks, which encouraged her to seek out quality toys that are designed to teach through play, enhance motor skills and develop a child’s sensory experience. She found the types of toys she wanted, but they were in Europe, and, through social media, she also found many like-minded moms who were interested in the same quality toys, so Beese saw an opportunity.
In early 2012, she attended the world’s largest toy fair in Nuremburg, Germany, where she met with more than 30 European brands that were interested in working with her to bring her business to New Orleans. Six months later, Little Pnuts was born, offering quarterly subscription toy boxes curated to coincide with the varying phases of development for children up to age six. Today, both the subscription company and the storefront feature toys from leading European manufacturers like HABA, Djeco, Janod, Playmobil and Seedling, and American brands like Tegu and Green Toys. “[Our toys] interest and challenge children, while helping them meet their milestones,” Beese says.
Beese’s focus has always been on brands that offer true craftsmanship and sustainability. The toys in the store contain no formaldehyde; many are organic; and all are ecologically friendly and sustainably made from natural materials. “There are very few batteries in our store,” she says. “We chose products based on the sustainability practices of the company.”
Beese also selects her products based on their performance and appeal to young minds, explaining that the toys in Little Pnuts are “designed to foster problem-solving skills in children of all ages and encourage patience, focus and understanding. The toys don’t just do it for you, they encourage kids to figure out how to make it work!”
Little Pnuts’ storefront is designed just as intuitively as its subscription boxes, with sections of the store separated into age groupings to make shopping simple. “We want to help you curate perfect gifts for the recipient,” Beese says. “We pride ourselves on knowing everything about each product we carry.”
Beese assures her customers that this personalized shopping experience and commitment to quality does not necessarily mean higher prices. “You’ll find prices that are the same as Toys “R” Us,” she says. “We’re not expensive. I’ve specifically curated our products to be competitive. Parents can feel confident that they’re not only buying a quality toy that is safe and engaging, but it also won’t break the bank.”
As Little Pnuts Toy Shoppe approaches its one-year anniversary, Beese plans to introduce story-time and crafts in her toy shop to continue to build her customer base. She also makes sure to have plenty of toys out on display for customers to use and experience, because, after all, what good is a toy if you can’t play with it?