Arlington, VA

(Updated at 3:40 p.m.) Many businesses have been forced to shift their expectations and approaches this year, and Kinder Haus Toys in Clarendon is no exception.

The toy store, located at 1220 N. Fillmore Street, already faced the test of keeping up with online competition before the pandemic. Its business challenges were exacerbated by the pandemic and state mandates that required the store to temporarily close earlier in the year.

But Kinder Haus has begun to return back to normal, albeit with stringent COVID-19 safety precautions. The store implements social distancing, has hand sanitizers ready, requires customers and employees to wear masks, and has installed a sneeze guard at the register.

Owner Sue Pyatt and the store’s employees have made the adjustments in stride, and it’s starting to pay off.

“It’s getting better. Little by little, week by week, we’re seeing an improvement in sales,” Pyatt said. “And that’s very encouraging.”

Once the store reopened, sales initially shifted to curbside service, online advertisements were heavily utilized, and Pyatt leaned on the business drummed up by an email newsletter.

Though some things have changed, others have stayed the same. The store’s focus has remained on some essentials Pyatt feels are synonymous with small independent business, such as offering free gift wrapping and the “knowledgeable suggestions” from the staff.

“We have a number of loyal customers, and they were so pleased we were open,” Pyatt said. “And they had such nice things to say, such as, ‘It gives us hope that you’re continuing,’ and ‘We appreciate being able to have a store like this that we can turn to when we need gifts for children,’ and things along that line.”

Kinder Haus has managed to maintain its normal hours since it reopened, and according to Pyatt has been able to meet its expenses and ensure payroll was consistently met for employees.

Though the store is open and business is slowly getting better, there have been some additional cuts due to safety measures. The store’s regular events like Tunes 4 Tots music class, arts and crafts activities, Lego Play Day, and others have been suspended until further notice, for instance.

Pyatt hopes to be able to offer the activities again “as soon as we feel it’s safe.”

The store has been able to maintain its charitable efforts with the help of the “very generous community that we’re blessed to be in,” Pyatt said.

The store maintains a donation box to support the Arlington Food Assistance Center and continues to provide support to the Educate the Girls organization that provides financial assistance to girls in rural Uganda to attend primary or secondary school.

“I’d just like to say how much we appreciate our customers and more than anything, it’s the customers and the support we’ve received from them that has made it possible for us to continue and give us the encouragement that we needed,” Pyatt said. “That words that occur to me are kind of cliché, but we’re all in this together. Our staff, our wonderful customers, we’re all in this doing the best we can. And I think that’s why it works.”

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