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Specialty toy store coming to Miller Hill Mall in Duluth

Toys are returning to Miller Hill Mall. After years without a toy store, one will open at the Duluth mall this fall. And it won't be a cookie-cutter chain store that one can find in other malls. Brad and Mistaya Ruoho, the owners of Legacy Toys, ...

Legacy Toys
Legacy Toys in Ely is packed with more than 12,000 different types of toys and includes an old-fashioned candy counter, selling bulk and other candy. Among its offerings are Jelly Belly jelly beans. A similar candy department will be a part of the new store coming to Miller Hill Mall. (Photo courtesy of Brad Ruoho)

Toys are returning to Miller Hill Mall.
After years without a toy store, one will open at the Duluth mall this fall. And it won’t be a cookie-cutter chain store that one can find in other malls.
Brad and Mistaya Ruoho, the owners of Legacy Toys, a specialty toy store in Ely, will open a store in the former A Dollar store space next to Sears. It will feature toys that encourage playing, social interaction and
old-fashioned fun.
That means computer games, iPads, iPods begone.
The store will be Legacy Toys’ second location. Like the Ely store, it will offer classic, wooden, nostalgic as well as modern toys. It will have a wide variety of board games for young children to families, plus plenty of books, puzzles, arts and crafts and other activities.
The popular Ely store is jampacked with toys. Aiming for a toy store experience for children, it has recreated temple ruins and a lifelike banyan tree branching through the store.
“We make it a fun experience,” Brad Ruoho said.
The store was born two years ago in an effort to steer the Ruohos’ daughters - now ages 8, 10 and 12 - and other children away from electronic gadgets and toward healthy interaction.
“The idea is not to totally get away from technology,” Brad Ruoho said. “We believe in technology and embrace it; but to instead not totally focus on it. There are so many important factors to a child’s growth and creativity that technology can’t provide. We want to encourage those developments in the next generation of business leaders and thinkers.”
At 3,200 square feet, the Miller Hill Mall store will be nearly three times the size of the Ely store. And the couple is excited about what they can do with it.
“We feel we’re going to be a destination experience and not just another store,” said Ruoho, a former information technology company owner.
They plan to build a small rain forest animal kingdom in the new Duluth store with trees and a rope bridge. There’ll be a pet adoption area for adopting stuffed animals, an Old West store with cap guns and a game demonstration area to teach people how to play new games. A nostalgic candy store within the store will have its own walls and roof.
They had to get special mall permission to do all this. They got it last week, so buildout will start soon.
“What we want to do is make everything feel real, rather than shelves and walls of toys,” Ruoho said. “We want people to have experiences in the store.”
Toy store desert

Legacy Toys is the first full-fledged toy store at the mall since KB Toys closed about 10 years ago.
“It’s a fabulous addition to the mall,” said Machelle Kendrick, the mall’s director of marketing and business development.  “And keep in mind that it’s a local business, a regional one.”
While most of the mall’s stores are part of large retail chains, the mall has been approaching local merchants with unique stores about opening at the mall to liven up the mix. It’s a move mall owner Simon Property Group is encouraging with its malls around the country to add good local color, Kendrick said.
“We do support small businesses like Legacy Toys,” she said. “We do support the community.”  
The Ruohos had been looking to grow with a second store when the mall approached them.
“We were looking at different towns,” Brad Ruoho said. “Duluth was on our radar. It seemed like the mall would be a good fit for us, especially in the winter time.”
With a 10-year lease, the pair are in it for the long haul.
The things we’re building are not things easy to move around,” Ruoho said. “We’re planning to stay a long time.”
The opening of a toy store at the mall also plays a key role in one of the markets the mall is targeting - families.
“We have some nice draws for young families,” Kendrick said. They include clothing stores, maternity wear and the Build-A-Bear Workshop - a limited toy offering that opened last year.
Another need is for a children’s play area at the mall.
“Our shoppers have cried out for a play area,” Kendrick said. “It’s something that’s desperately called for. We really want a play area here.”
The mall is, indeed, exploring the possibility of putting in a play area. And among the possible sites is the Sears court, in front of Legacy Toys.

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