BANGOR, Maine — Robert O. Cupcake originated two years ago in an 8-year-old’s mind as the imaginary friend of Jane Roe.
Today, Jane is a month away from turning 10, and although Robert is no longer a primary playmate, he’s still a fixture in the life of Jane and the entire Roe family.
Mother Nancy Roe opted to extend Robert O.’s fame outside the family home by naming the toy store she and husband Mark Roe relocated to Bangor from Machias after the childhood friend.
“Jane used to call her father at work regularly and imitate Robert O. Cupcake’s voice,” Nancy Roe recalled. “She would make demands for him to bring stuff home to her, or else.”
Mark Roe and Robert O. became tongue-in-cheek “enemies,” and a popular source of teasing and joking in the Roe household, culminating in a picture of Robert O. on the Roe’s refrigerator.
“You could see part of his face, and he was on the phone, and there was a monogram on the sleeves, which were unbuttoned and open, which my husband hates, with an ‘enemies list’ in the background with my husband at the top of the list.”
Nowadays, Mark and Robert are business partners for “an old-fashioned, neighborhood toy store” specializing in toys, games and puzzles for kids of all ages.
“Kids go crazy here. They have a lot of fun, and oftentimes they leave kicking and screaming,” said Nancy Roe. “And adults seem pleased because they say the prices are reasonable and we have a very unique selection.”
The store, located at 332 Harlow St. in the Intown Plaza, is open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday, and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.
The Roes ran the store for years in Machias.
“We had a couple other businesses going and one was a party store, which we knew wasn’t going to cut it, so we slowly phased it into a toy store,” Nancy Roe explained. “Our other stores were a J.C .Penney catalog store and a video rental place, which we had to close.”
While the toy store was well received in Machias, Roe said it couldn’t be sustained. So Mark, Nancy, Jane, 11-year-old son Jack and black Labrador retriever Duke moved here, renting a house in Orono while also renting out their house in Machias.
“We have some great friends here,” Nancy Roe said with a chuckle. “And the area seems better able to sustain a store like this. The response has been really good and we haven’t been here that long.”
The store — which features a couple of 4-foot, stuffed giraffes in the window — offers everything from old-fashioned toys such as blocks, wooden puppets, train cars and playsets, dolls, stuffed animals; pop culture icons such as Silly Putty and Slinkys; novelties such as magnets, periscopes, laser fingers, space ice cream; and newer generation toys such as the “Melissa and Doug” line and a line of small, colorful and plush birds like woodpeckers, eagles and chickadees endorsed by National Audubon Society that, when squeezed, emit the exact call of that bird species.
“We like more developmental and educational toys, stuff to fire the imagination,” said Roe, who added the store also does free gift wrapping. “I try to get as many different items as possible.”
That description certainly applies to “Boinks,” flexible, nylon tubes that shoot high into the air after being compressed.
“Legos are great, and would be ideal for us, but we don’t carry them because we know we couldn’t compete with the selection at places like Walmart,” Roe said. “So we concentrate on more unique, creative toys that will get a lot of attention and use.”