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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."
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?

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