Treasure trove still delighting a decade later

After Sandy Challinor's 4-year-old son Ryan and 2-year-old daughter Tracey finished piano lessons in Newburyport, Ma., they always had to make a stop at Eureka Toys.

"We always had to walk by the toy store," she said. "But we didn't just walk by the store. We definitely went inside."

On the weekends, they often visited The Dragon's Nest, where the children would spend hours wandering the specialty toy shop.

The family moved to Colleyville in 1998. Challinor opened The Owl's Nest Toy Shop in The Village at Colleyville in October 2002. And in 2005, she relocated to Southlake Town Square, where the business is one of the few independent shops among a sea of chain stores. She modeled her shop after The Dragon's Nest.

A wooden Thomas the Tank set greets visitors once they enter.

"I have parents that come in here and say 'Oh, their radar is up today.' They were driving on 1709 and they know that we're in here and have to stop," Challinor said. "The kids run in and they run in to Thomas the Train table. They all do."

Shelves are stocked with a variety of toys, arts and crafts, games, puzzles and educational books. Challinor tries to stock up on hot-selling items, such as Spooner Boards. There are specialty items too: HABA toys from Germany, Papo Knight action figures and Thomas the Tank wooden trains.

The shop offers hand painting of names on glass ornaments for Christmas and on wooden eggs for Easter. Gift wrapping is free for all purchases, which brings customers back to shop.

The business has a frequent buyer program, a gift registry and rewards for students who excel in school. Students who bring in a report card with all passing grades are rewarded with a silver coin valued at $2, redeemable for merchandise in the shop.

The Owl's Nest will soon be celebrating its 10th anniversary. But in July 2009, the shop was on the verge of closing its doors.

Challinor was behind on her rent and informed customers there would be a big sale as a result. Two days later, customer Debbie Williams-Thomas came to the rescue as an investor. Challinor closed the shop for almost a month to restock the shelves and reopened in August 2009.

She received nearly 500 emails from customers. Her favorite letter was written by a customer from Borger. After he took his son to Baylor Grapevine for autism treatments, they would often visit The Owl's Nest.

"He loves to go by there and see your Thomas playsets and look over your puzzles. As usual, we always walk away with something for him," the letter reads. "Thank you for being there and thank God you are staying."

Top picks for toys

  • Spooner Boards ($45–$55)
  • Shoulder Buddies ($5.99)
  • CyberFire Football Set ($24.99)
  • Duct Tape Bangles ($14.99)
  • Early Melodies Pound and Tap Bench ($29.99)

The Owl's Nest Toy Shop, 1220 Prospect St., Southlake, 817-251-0155,