FALMOUTH — Rainbow Toys, with a mission of “engaging children’s minds and inspiring creativity,” is celebrating its 25th anniversary.
The specialty store in the Shops at Falmouth Village on Route 1 is owned and operated by Juliette and Karl Steinbach.
“Working in a toy store is joyful and happy,” Juliette Steinbach said. “One of my favorite things is when a child comes in and immediately exclaims, ‘look at that.’ Their enthusiasm is so wonderful.”
The Steinbachs are not the original owners, but have been the proprietors for most of the past 25 years. The couple purchased the toy shop from Gail Shonle in 1996 and moved the store to its current location in 2000.
Since their first days, the couple has worked hard to provide “quality toys and gifts that are interesting, fun and creative,” according to Steinbach.
It’s also been a family affair, with their children also working various shifts at the store.
“Our son lives in California now, but our daughter, who was 15 months old when we bought the store, still works occasionally. She’s in college (though), so she isn’t as available as she used to be,” Steinbach said.
After being at home for several years with her young children, Steinbach was looking to re-enter the workforce. That was in 1995.
She recalled that a girlfriend asked what she wanted to do and her response was, “I would love to own a business like that sweet little toy store in Falmouth.”
“One month later she called me and said the owners were selling,” Steinbach said. “We bought it in March 1996.”
Steinbach said her whole career has been in customer service, starting at the age of 15, when she began working in the food industry. After college she managed a restaurant in Portland for a couple years.
“Karl is a customer-service guy, too,” she said. “He worked for IBM for 21 years and most of his clients were large retailers, including L.L. Bean and Hannaford.”
“I love owning my own business and the flexibility that offers me and my family,” Steinbach said. “I feel like toys bring joy to people young and old. … I like to think I serve the Falmouth community in a nice way.”
While she does bring in “trendy things, like fidget spinners, our core lines are tried and true,” Steinbach added. “We carry quality brands, including Ravensburger, Corolle, Plan Toys, Brio, Lego, Playmobil, Bruder and many more.”
Steinbach employs 12 part-timers, eight local teens and four adults.
“Betsy Hillman and Carol Morrison have been with us for the entire 21 years,” Steinbach said. “We have been so fortunate to have them.”
“We have so many fun memories,” Steinbach said of her years running Rainbow Toys. “As you know, kids can say ‘the darnedest things,’ so many of our stories involve direct quotes from children.
“Apparently, a lot of children refer to us as the panda store because of (the logo on) our sign. We often get sweet handwritten notes and pictures from children (and) we love those, misspellings and all.”
Like many small business owners these days, Steinbach said she faces competition from big-box stores.
“Unlike 21 years ago when we bought the toy store,” she said, “the lines are blurred between specialty toy stores and (the big-box stores). In order to stay in business manufacturers sell to almost everyone now and therefore we don’t have exclusivity anymore.
“So, we try to offer more in the service area than big-box toy stores. We also have lots of demos and are always ready to help with gift selection through knowledge of our products and communication with our customers. We also offer free gift wrapping, (which is) a real bonus for busy parents.”
Overall, Steinbach said, “We owe our success and longevity in great part to the many employees, current and past, and to the customers who have been so loyal over the years. We feel very lucky to be part of such a wonderful community.”
Karl and Juliette Steinbach are the owners of Rainbow Toys in Falmouth. The store is celebrating its 25th anniversary in operation.
A young Emma Steinbach cuddles with the popular storybook character Madeline at her parents’ store, Rainbow Toys. She’s now 22 and a student in college.