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Carol Knight Retires after 43 Years in the Toy Business
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Friday, April 29, 2022
 

STORY BY KATE DALY

PHOTO BY KAREN BOSSICK

Miss chatting it up with Carol Knight at the toy store she ran for 43 years? Then you are in luck, because everyone is invited when the new owners throw her a retirement party at the Ketchum store from 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, April 30.

Originally from Red Wing, Minn., Knight came to Sun Valley during the ski season of 1975, “took care of a rich guy’s house,” and worked at Edgar’s Place, a daycare/preschool.

In 1978 she teamed up with friend Nancy Quarton to fill a void and opened a toy store on Sun Valley Road. Three years later Knight became sole owner and moved the business a block away to 102 Washington Avenue, where it has stayed for about 25 years ago. She opened the Sun Valley Mall location 12 years ago.

Earlier this year she turned over the keys to Lisa Pack and Marné Grange, a mother-daughter team of retailers in Eden, Utah who now call the Ketchum and Sun Valley shops EJ Kids Toy Store.

“They know what they’re doing; they have my great staff,” Knight says about the new owners.

Since retiring, Knight has kept busy traveling to Mexico, skiing, and taking care of her young grandson. Eventually she figures she will miss the fun of meeting new people all the time and getting to know them when they seek advice looking for toys, puzzles and games to make somebody happy.

“It was a real special opportunity to really have a great job in this community, get to know all the locals and watch kids grow up,” she says.

She raised two boys and recently found herself selling to their friends’ kids, a third generation of customers.

“I really enjoyed the buying, and finding new things, going to shows, and working with sale reps,” she says.

She particularly liked traveling to the toy fairs in Nuremberg, Germany, and New York, as well as the annual conventions of specialty toy storeowners and suppliers that took place in different cities around the country.

Knight sought to carry a blend of traditional toys: trucks, trains, dolls, arts and crafts, clothing and products for babies… quality toys with an educational bend, a lot of games and puzzles.

“I also carried some of the big box [store] toys like Hot Wheels or Transformers,” she says. “A lot of people said, ‘I only buy made in America.’ To be honest, there’s not much left made in America.”

Toy companies, she points out, may be based in Germany or Sweden, but manufacturing has largely moved overseas to Asia.

Christmas Eve was always the busiest day of the year. Tourists and second homeowners would come in and do all of their Christmas shopping and afterwards Knight would go home and celebrate with friends with a potluck party.

She fondly recalls the Lego Building Expos she hosted for many years. And, until COVID hit in 2020, she was well known for putting on doll-buggy parades during the summer.

Earlier in her career she appeared at birthday parties as Minnie the clown, with Quarton as her sidekick, the Wiz. As for her celebrity clients, Knight says, it’s always a thrill to see Jamie Lee Curtis or Arnold Schwarzenegger or to recognize Tom Hanks’ voice in the aisles.

Knight recounts the time Janet Leigh was shopping for Christmas presents and a man walked up and asked the actress if he knew her because she looked like somebody he knew. Leigh’s response: “I hear that all the time; I must have a really familiar face.”

Knight chuckles about the time a famous musician was sleuthing around the store. When asked if he needed help, he said he was “just looking.” Knight’s employee warned her, “There’s this weird guy, some vagrant you should keep an eye on him.”

When he left the store, two customers came up and identified him as a famous singer and rock star.  He later returned with his wife and bought something.

Now that Knight is in her early seventies, she says it was time to retire,

“I wanted some totally free time.”

Her future plans include more bicycling, hiking, backpacking, “putzing” around her garden and house, having fun, and seeing friends.

“Every day feels full,” she says. But, then, she says she might take a part-time job.

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