BANGOR — A new store that recently opened in the In-Town Plaza on Harlow Street is a time machine that takes children back to a simpler era.
Owner Nancy Roe was very clear about what kind of items she stocks in her Robert O. Cupcake Toys store, which opened in early July: “Back to the basics, educational, developmental, things that inspire imagination. We stay away from electronics and commercial stuff. You feel better about giving your kids this kind of product.”
Roe feels there’s a place for such a store in a world full of computer screens.
“I used to seek out this kind of store,” she said. “I don’t like toys that play for the child. Kids have forgotten how to play.”
The store’s name comes from a cantankerous character that Roe’s 9-year-old daughter Jane would use when calling her father Mark at work (The Roes also have a 11-year-old son Jack). “We decided to develop a character based on that,” Roe recalled.
The Roes are returning to Bangor, where they met, after living in Machias for a dozen years. There they ran a business that was a combination video store, JC Penney catalog outlet, and a party store-turned-toy store. Societal changes took out the first two parts of their business, and “the population wasn’t big enough to support us,” Roe added.
Yet Roe didn’t want Robert O. Cupcake to end, hence the move to Bangor.
“It’s the best job I ever had,” she said. “What could be more fun? When we weren’t going to make it in Machias, I didn’t want to let go. So we decided to move here. I’ve always liked Bangor and have friends here.”
Much of the toys in Robert O. Cupcake are the Melissa & Doug line. Roe also stocks the Roy Toy wooden building kits manufactured in East Machias. She is supplementing those with items such as science kits and board games that appeal to older children.
There are also buckets of small, inexpensive toys and party favors: “I had a kid come in with $5 to spend,” Roe said. “That’s when I decided that I needed to get some less expensive items.”
Roe has been pleased that customers are seeking out her shop.
“We’ve had a lot of scouting expeditions, and some of those people are coming back,” she said. “We’ve gotten a lot of good reaction from people.”
Roe knows she’s facing a real challenge. She recalled the day when she found Jane playing on a laptop near the front of the store, and sent her daughter back to the office.
“We’re seeking a way to pull kids away from the screens, but it’s an uphill battle,” she said. “We want them to step back to a simple, more imaginative time.”
Douglas O. Cupcake Toys is located at 332 Harlow St. in Bangor. For more information, call 659-7339 or visit its Facebook page.