My Favorite Toy Store Owner: 'Bank Put Me Out of Business'

"I know there will be kids running down the street ahead of their parents, and they'll pull on the door handle, and it will be locked. And that just tears me up."—owner Mike Geisen

My Favorite Toy Store, at 123 N. York St. in Elmhurst, has closed for good. (Patch file photo)
My Favorite Toy Store, at 123 N. York St. in Elmhurst, has closed for good. (Patch file photo)
By Lauren Traut and Karen Chadra

A beloved local toy store with locations in Elmhurst and Downers Grove was unexpectedly shuttered Dec. 30—and few are more heartbroken than owner Mike Geisen. 

Geisen said he had no choice. The closing is a result of bank action pertaining to his longterm business loan, he said. His lawyer advised him not to incur any additional costs at the store, and so he closed up shop immediately.

The doors were closed and locked Dec. 30, and will remain so. Social media has been buzzing with the news of the abrupt closing. Patrons who call the stores this week will hear the following message:

"Thank you for calling My Favorite Toy store. I'm sorry, but we are closed and will not re-open. I apologize for the short notice. I had no choice in the matter."

Attempts by Patch to contact his bank went unanswered. Geisen chose not to publicly name the bank. 

Many of the stores' 12,000 active customers are quite disappointed to hear the news. Geisen, whose Downers Grove shop ran for 12 years and Elmhurst location for eight, has been fielding their calls for days. Many have questions about gift cards recently issued at the store. Unfortunately, Geisen said, there's no way he can honor those cards.

Elmhurst Patch has received emails and inquiries on Facebook. Here are some of the responses to the closing on the Elmhurst Patch Facebook page:
  • Greg Zerkis: "Loved that store!!! Shopped there all the time. Ugh."
  • Pat Meyers Albinion: "Such a shame, they had a great selection of unique gifts."
  • Katie Cox: "Best Customer Service, loved their unique gifts, have such fond memories going there. Very sad!"
  • Laura Goddard Amann: "Such a shame - they were so nice and helpful and had an amazing selection. Hope they're okay."
Here are some of the comments on the Choose Elmhurst Small Business Facebook page:
  • Marianne Cielak Boyke: "ugh!! Why do all the good businesses in Elmhurst close???"
  • Simeren Silverstein: "Does anyone know how to get in touch with Aaron that worked there? He was awesome and very accommodating, even running purchases out to my car when I didn't want to get my daughter out of her car seat. I'd love to just give him a big hug."
  • Laura Monaco Fischer: "Ugh! I'm so upset. I purposely shop locally so things like this won't happen. Truly will miss this place!"
The Downtown Downers Grove Management Corporation also expressed its sadness over the closing.

"My Favorite Toy Store has become a centerpiece of our downtown merchant mix and has became a destination for all ages," the association said in a statement on its Facebook page.

"The Downtown Management Corporation exists, in part, to be advocates for our Downtown businesses. But the very nature of business, and in particular small family businesses, is that there are daily challenges—some which at times can become extreme. ... Our Village is better for having shared this time with My Favorite Toy Store."

But no one is more disappointed than Geisen. 

"Hands-down the best part about the business was talking to customers, helping people find the perfect gift," he said. "People would come in, find a special gift, and walk away smiling.

"I know there will be kids running down the street ahead of their parents, and they'll pull on the door handle, and it will be locked. And that just tears me up."
Mike T. McAuley January 03, 2014 at 02:24 PM
why can't he honor the gift cards, people paid for them.
Ken T January 03, 2014 at 02:57 PM
This is a real bummer. Added a lot to the DT area. Very sad news.
Faust January 03, 2014 at 03:12 PM
May I suggest, in its place, something other than a yogurt shop?
Glenda Worrell January 03, 2014 at 03:44 PM
I couldn't, in good conscience, have sold a gift card to someone the week before I closed my doors. I gave this as a client gift. Now I'll need to tell my client so that his child isn't disappointed when they come to buy.
Jorge Zapata January 03, 2014 at 04:22 PM
He should let the gift card and store credit holders go in, shop and then provide inventory back to the bank. So unfair to kids who got gift cards or just returned something from the holidays for store credit. I hope someone from the bank reads this and handles the closing of a business they funded appropriately (or the attorney).
RobertAWilson January 03, 2014 at 05:17 PM
honoring these gift cards may be an issue for the Attorney General's office?
asif yusuf January 03, 2014 at 05:23 PM
He should refund all those outstanding gift cards, it is the only right thing for him and the bank to do. More importantly I would like to know which bank put the screws to him so I can rethink if I want to deal with them or not in the future
Julie G January 03, 2014 at 05:27 PM
This really stinks especially for those who have gift cards or store credits : ( How do you explain that to the kids? But unfortunately Jorge, from working back office at a bank, I see small businesses that are in trouble all the time. And they usually have an overdrawn bank account, too. I'm not saying that is the case here, but these days, it seems to be happening more and more. The problem is that if the bank is is taking action against the business they are probably out a lot of money themselves. I know a lot of people have something against banks, but not all banks are huge blood sucking banks- there are still some small family-owned banks out there, too, that are trying to make it and can't afford to take big hits from bad loans. (As a side note, the owner's quote bothers me. 'The bank put me out of business'. No, the bank lent you money, your business failed. The bank does not run your business, therefore, it's not the bank's fault.) And for the record I'm not trying to start an argument here about banks, I'm just saying, I see it from the other side, too. And I am in total agreeance with Glenda about selling gift cards or giving store credits a week before the doors closed- he must have known the other foot was gonna drop by that time. Not fair to the kids.
Alan Brinkmeier January 03, 2014 at 06:21 PM
I may be alone in this opinion.... but....for the business owner to accept gift cards for Christmas all the way through December up to Christmas Eve and then not honor them is terrible. Greed! Blaming the bank or a lawyer is convenient. He still took the money. He did so full well knowing his business would never honor those gifts. Unforgivable greed in this Christmas season in my opinion! Many kinder folks would have stopped taking gift cards.
D L January 03, 2014 at 07:09 PM
I'm not a big fan of Banks, but obviously the bank was floating the store for awhile before having to cut them off. A bank doesn't close a business. It's there source of revenue but only if they are getting paid ! A sad small business end, but sounds like the owner is deflecting blame elsewhere. And selling gift cards days before closing is just wrong !
Tiffany Shriver January 03, 2014 at 07:32 PM
I am always sad to hear about the closing of any small business. MFTS you will be missed!
scott taub January 04, 2014 at 12:08 AM
Sounds like the bank has a security interest in the inventory -- that is, the inventory is collateral for the loan. For some reason (missed payment, technical default, loan maturity without an agreement to extend) the bank is foreclosing. At that point, the owner is prohibited from selling the inventory, because it is now the bank's inventory. That's why the store wouldn't be able to honor e gift cards or otherwise sell anything. As for selling the gift cars a week ago, I would surmise that the owner thought that the loan wouldn't be called.
Mary Pedicini January 04, 2014 at 12:29 AM
We're really going to miss MFTS!! But please, no more hamburger restaurants!
chris January 04, 2014 at 07:46 AM
Shame on you Mike for selling gift cards fully knowing the store was in this particular state. You would have been better off doing a "super sale" during the holiday season and making your "long time customers" happy and in the end stick it to the "bank" that put you out of business. Did the bank hold a gun to your head and say to sell all of these gift cards knowing full well that money would be going straight to them? This is an issue for the AG to look at fraud also because if you knowingly sell something that will be worthless that is fraud. Now what you can do is post the name of the "bank" so that we know who the real Grinch is and maybe save some face for you because people will move their money out of the financial institution.
Robin A. Doerr January 04, 2014 at 03:48 PM
People need to start holding banks that got their bailouts accountable also. Every time you buy outside of town, the system that kills small businesses win. It's pretty tough to make a profit these days in any business, and unless you have run a retail business, you have no room to criticize Mike. I am sure he faces many more legal problems, and the banks and lawyers will get paid first. Put your anger where it counts. He probably was hoping to keep things running. So many small business have closed here that I wonder where residents are spending their money. We get the main street we deserve. I agree to stop supporting banks that don't care about your town and ask what the Elmhurst Business Development is doing to help current businesses stay afloat.
Julie G January 04, 2014 at 07:04 PM
Seriously. "the bank and lawyers will get paid first". To criticize the bank for getting back THEIR MONEY that THEY LENT to a customer is ridiculous. And for that matter, if you have an account at the same bank- technically it is YOUR money. YOUR money you put in a bank goes towards funding loans. Good thing banks are insured by the FDIC. I'd hate for anyone to criticize you if you weren't able to get your money back after you "lent" it to someone.
Robin A. Doerr January 04, 2014 at 09:50 PM
Julie, I have worked in companies that have gone bankrupt and I was just saying that banks and lawyers will get paid first before any customers are refunded. I am sure that it will be sorted out but it will takes time. I am just commenting that since we don't know what happened, we don't have the right to criticize the owner. Many businesses have gone belly up in Elmhurst suddenly in the last few years. It makes me wonder where people are shopping that's all I was saying. Many large banks are making hefty profits while small businesses are not, and many of the beneficiaries are not in our community, that's why I am saying to check out which ones support local business that's all. You misunderstood my comments.
Doremus Jessup January 05, 2014 at 07:37 AM
I imagine may who bought gift cards did so with a credit card and can dispute the charges with the credit card company.
Julie G January 05, 2014 at 04:53 PM
I totally get what you're saying Robin. I was just taken aback by that specific comment. The bank should get their money back. I don't think people realize that banks lose so much money due to bad loans and bad accounts. They absolutely should get their money back. I see many businesses committing fraud against banks and kiting checks between accounts at 3 or 4 different banks. And its the banks that end up out the money. And not all banks are "large ruthless" banks either. Just like not all businesses are out to commit fraud or default on their loans. Anyway, my comment was not directed solely at your comment, but at comments of others here who want to know the name of the "Grinch bank" here. The bank simply wants its money back and is not "out to get" anyone. It doesn't make sense that it's everyone's first reaction to blame the bank. That's all.
asif yusuf January 06, 2014 at 07:43 AM
Maybe it was a bad loan and the bank did what it had to do but maybe after years of providing financing the bank suddenly decided they wanted out and put the business owner in an impossible situation. I have seen this all to often some bank lending policies defy logic. Generally I agree that banks can do what they want but so can we as customers. Maybe instead of a multi-billion dollar bailout the federal government should have taken the same approach with the banking industry as the bank has with this borrower
Nancy Fergus Cushing January 06, 2014 at 03:14 PM
Julie- why do you think there are banks on every corner - they make big bucks every day - not too concerned about the little people trying to keep their families together and fed. Yes we are all in business to make money but the outrageous money banks make off working people is disgusting and must be stopped. This owner (like many many others) was forced into a corner with no way out and some bank VP stamped the paper saying "default". Done. Pathetic and sad. Consider your gift cards a gift to the bank - this owner did not take one cent of it and had no idea the store was closing when it did. Working people don't play that way. Big banks only know how to play this way - they closed it and they alone. We don't need the name of the bank it will be another bank today and a different one tomorrow. Sick and sad.
chris January 07, 2014 at 09:01 AM
Nancy, I totally agree with you and I had worked for a Big bank and a small financial institution in my earlier days. I could tell you tons of stories about the greed that goes on but usually the BIG banks just sweep it under the rug and the little ones get taken over with government assistance by the big ones. How many "neighborhood" banks do you see anymore?


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »