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'Plan C': North Texas Toy Store Closed By Tornado Then Coronavirus

Last October, when tornadoes ripped through Dallas, a toy store lost its roof and half its inventory. Rebuilding would take it down to the studs, so owners scrambled to find a temporary location and re-launched before the holidays.

The threat of coronavirus means the store is now shuttered again — for the second time in six months.

Just hours before Dallas County's "shelter-in-place" order took effect this week, The Toy Maven was doing a brisk business in Preston Hollow. Shoppers drove up in their cars, parked outside the store and placed orders over the phone. The puzzles were really moving.

It wasn't the mob scene you might find at a supermarket, shelves inside the store weren't barebut staffers at The Toy Maven were hauling armloads of arts and crafts, and jettisoning jigsaws nonstop.

Changing times

This past weekend, the store went to curbside sales only. The idea was shoppers could Facetime with an employee inside to get a look at what was available, payment would be taken over the phone and toys delivered right to the car.

Owner Candace Williams thought it was a creative way to keep germs at bay.

"We wanted to protect our youngest, who if they come in they immediately want to touch," she said.

The Toy Maven has always been a place where in-store playing was encouraged — coronavirus put a stop to that. And Dallas' shelter-in-place order, which took affect late Monday night, crushed curbside too.

The Toy Maven's Southlake location was given verbal permission to continue selling toys curbside, for now. Shipping continues out of the Dallas store.  Small businesses across the country are scrambling to make these kind of adjustments.

Same song, different verse

Williams says it's difficult to try and figure her way through restrictions that seem to change by the day. After a tornado forced a move to this temporary spot last fall though, she's used to looking on the bright side.

"It is a little frightening if I slow down enough to kind of think about it," she said. "But I'm such a Pollyanna — I love her. She's such a great character in a book who always, you know, she's just so positive thinking and tries to find the best in every situation, and I just feel like things will be ok in the end."

Nobody who owns a small business plans on two, store-closing disasters within six months. That Oct. 20 tornado destroyed hundreds of North Texas homes and businesses, even a handful of municipal buildings.

Williams says right now, she's most worried about taking care of her employees and figuring out a way for The Toy Maven to operate. While her challenges may seem staggering, everyone is trying to get used to a very new normal.

"And there's just no other way to take life's punches other than to look at it, accept it for what it is, and then figure out a plan B and move on," she said. "And we're all going to have to do that, we're all going to have to do that for for our families, for our communities go and there's just no other way to go about a situation such as this."

Plan C

Remembering the wreckage at her store the day after the tornado, Williams realizes she's already used up Plan B.

"Plan C, corona. How funny, right? How ironic."

Much like Pollyanna though, the scrappy optimist who's been delighting young readers since 1913, Candace Williams isn't going to dwell on that irony.

Instead, she's going to wrap up coloring books, modeling clay, Lego sets and puzzles — and do her best to deliver them to stir-crazy kids and parents.

Courtney Collins has been working as a broadcast journalist since graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection.