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Andersonville’s North Pole Connection! Meet Toys Et Cetera’s Michael Waterbrook

Michael-1When Toys Et Cetera manager Michael Waterbrook was 5- or 6-years-old, he remembers that old Toys R Us commercial periodically airing “I don’t want to grow up, cause if I did, I wouldn’t be a Toys R Us kid.” He remembers sitting there after the commercial would end, dumbfounded and staring blankly, trying to wrap his head around it. Is it true that when people grow up they don’t like toys anymore? Is there going to be a time in my life when I won’t like toys? It was then that Michael decided that was not going to be his fate. He would never give up toys!

After college, Michael worked at a non-profit for years, including doing a stint as a case manager in the mental health field in Tucson, Arizona. He decided to move to Chicago in 2004 and spent a couple of years doing leadership and outreach programming with teenagers in Skokie and Rogers Park. However, his non-profit career became very stressful, and he started to look for a change of pace. He sought a career that was more fun and, in 2006, that path led him to Toys Et Cetera. Michael believes that play is extremely important in life, and he thinks that a toy store is the perfect way to promote that.

We asked Michael the following questions:

1. You have every kid’s dream job. What’s it like to run the neighborhood toy store?

MW: It’s a lot of changing batteries, and making sure the octopus pens work, and organizing the cat stuffed animals next to the dog stuffed animals, and standing the polar bear cubs up on their feet, and checking that the slime containers are sealed, and placing the knights back on their horses. And, at the end of a long day, we sometimes have to work together to get the three correct ingredients into the Cauldron before all the paths are blocked and the evil wizard has destroyed the kingdom (in one of our favorite games, Cauldron Quest).

2. The ‘Shop Local’ movement is crucial to your success. What are your thoughts on the strategy?

MW: I think it’s fantastic! I walk around shopping in the neighborhood all the time, and there are still so many places I haven’t even checked out yet. If I had it my way, I’d buy everything in the neighborhood and then I’d never have to leave.

3. What is the coolest toy you have seen grace your toy shelves in the last couple years?

MW: Road Tape. It’s tape that looks like a road, and you can put it anywhere in your house, and move it around whenever you want, build cities, put it on your walls, drive your cars on it. Genius.

4. Are there any big plans for Toys Et Cetera in the near future?

MW: Not right now but bookmark our website for events, toysetcetera.com.

5. The Holiday time has got to be especially time consuming for you. What is your favorite time of year?

PM: Spring is great. Our doors are wide open. The flowers are planted. Our community-designed Lego window is on display. We have our shelves fully stocked with new toys. And we start seeing familiar faces in the neighborhood that we maybe haven’t seen in a couple months because it’s been so cold.


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