How long have you been in business? Smith’s has been in business for 68 years, and I’ve only worked at Smith’s for 42. Smith’s opened up in 1950 in Homewood and then moved to Mountain Brook in 1962. What is the best thing about being a part of the toy biz? It’s being able to be a part of all the families and the kids’ lives in our communities. We’ve seen kids and families grow up, and now their grandkids. If you were stranded at the North Pole, pick the one toy you would want with you. That would have to be a Radio Flyer Sled. Who wants to be in the North Pole if you can’t slide? What is the biggest toy phenomenon that you have experienced? The Beanie Babies. We had, one day, 8,000 of them sold in a matter of four hours, and people had lined up starting at 6 a.m. We had to pass out numbers to get into the store.What is the best toy Santa ever surprised you with? This happens to be something that I got that came from Smith’s before we owned Smith’s. It was a James Bond Corgi Car with an ejection seat and a bulletproof shield that would pop up, machine guns that would come out of the front bumper, and I still have it. If you were to be transformed into a toy, what do you think you would be? That would have to be Stretch Armstrong, because at Christmas, we were pulled in every direction.
Jim Glazner and Steve Suddeth, toy department manager at Smith’s, with some of their can’t miss suggestions:
The Farm Hoppers, $29.99, are bouncy balls that come in an assortment of different farm animals such as unicorns, cows, horses, pigs and bunnies. “You just sit on them, grab them by the ears and have a good time,” Glazner said.
The True Balance Game, $27.99, is a gift for all ages — even seniors and shut-ins. “You try to balance them out and get them all in a row,” Glazner said. “And then you try to do it upside down — more than likely, these kids these days, they’ll come up with a whole bunch of neat things to do with them.”
The Bluetooth Sing-Along BLING Karaoke Mic, $49.99, is a wireless microphone with LED light-up speakers. “You download an app on your phone, and you can hook it up from your phone to the speakers and have a karaoke sing-along,” Suddeth said.
The Pop-Up Basketball Set, $19.99, is a lot of bang for your buck. “It’s a pop-up basketball game for outside, inside, anything,” Glazner said. “The thing about this is, it’s a big toy, and it’s only 20 bucks.”
“The Radio-Controlled Light Up Dinosaur, $39.99, is exactly that. It makes all kinds of good noises and lights up everything,” Glazner said. “It’s pretty cool, and it looks really neat too.”
“Adora Adoption Babies, $49.99, come with adoption papers, and the box actually looks like a cradle,” Suddeth said. “Dolls are moving back in.”
“The Mag Pad, $21.99, is kind of like a new Etch A Sketch,” Glazner said. The stylus is magnetic and brings beads to the surface with an audible “click.” When it’s time to erase the creation, push the beads back down into the pad with the stylus or your finger.
The SWIFT Glider by Firefox, $19.99, charges in just 15 seconds. “You take it (to an open field), and you don’t throw it; you just let it go. And it starts flying. It goes into a circle, and for about 15 seconds, it flies. When it cuts off, it just glides, and it goes further out,” Suddeth said.
The Brackit Builders come in a price range of $19.99 to $29.99. “What I like about it is it’s kind of like a modern-day Tinker Toy. But it fits together and holds better, and it’s actually bulkier,” Suddeth said.
Light Stax come in different sizes. The smaller size is $19.99, and the bigger size is $79.99. “The bigger ones are made basically for the kids to make their own nightlight, and it stays on for about 15 minutes, long enough for them to go to sleep, then it turns off on its own. They smaller ones don’t have the turn off (feature),” Glazner said.
Twisty Pets are $9.99-$24.99. “These are going to be big everywhere, and every toy store you go to, they’re going to talk about this,” Glazner said. “They’re cool bracelets or pets. You can make them into a bracelet and wear them, and you can make them into little pets.”
The Lumosphere Light Up Ball, $14.99, is a bulb with colorful dancing lights. “When there’s some good music going on, like rock ‘n’ roll, it starts to match up to the music,” he said. “It doesn’t do that on purpose, but all of the sudden, you’re like, ‘That’s matching to the music!’”
Banana Panda has an assortment of items for sale at Smith’s Variety for $11.99 to $22.99. “I like it because it is insanely hard to find something for somebody 12 months to 2 years old,” Suddeth said. “It’s puzzles, matching games … it’s something that is learning for younger ones.”
The Faux Bow is a plastic bow that comes with arrows that all have a safe cushioned tip. “It flies really far, and the kids just love them,” he said. The Faux Bow is $24.99, and the Faux Bow Pro is $39.99.
“The U Speakers are just really good, small, loud speakers that Bluetooth to your phone,” Glazner said. The speaker set, $89.99, comes with two speakers that are small enough to easily fit into a pocket. Their flat, magnetic surface can be conveniently placed on almost any surface. Smith’s Variety also sells a micro speaker, $34.99, and the mini speaker, $44.99.
GoGoPo has an assortment of items for girls, “Anything from pens, to sticky notes, to keychains,” Glazner said. One sells for $2.49 and three sell for $6.
“A stocking stuffer for dad: anything Nebo. Flashlights, things like that. And these are mega-bright, they’re not just a little bright,” he said. The Nebo Redline flashlight is $27.99.
Plus Plus Building, $7.99, is a tube that comes with small building blocks, all of them in the same shape. “Let’s say you’ve got just a small area – maybe you’ve got a child in a waiting room at a doctor’s or dentist’s office – these are pretty cool. You can build them flat like a puzzle or you can build something out of them.”
Mad Mattr Quantum Pod, $7.99, has just a small amount of Mad Mattr. “And kids just love Mad Mattr. It’s like a sand Play-Doh, and it holds together better than Play-Doh. It doesn’t get in your carpet,” Glazner said.
“The Fizz and Surprise, $6.99, is basically just a bath bomb. And believe it or not, the dinosaurs are doing better than the mermaids this year,” he said. “The boys are digging those things big time.”