For Kim LaRocca, her Main Street Toy Shoppe has been more than just a business to run, but a memorial to her son as well.
Standing behind the white counter on a cloudy Thursday afternoon, Kim LaRocca watched customers browsing around her Main Street Toy Shoppe front room.
Boxes of puzzles stood in the front corner with shelves of various unique toys lined up next to them.
This point of view will no longer remain her home away from home come February, when the store will either close for good or find another location. LaRocca said the main driver for her decision to have leave her Main Street front boiled down to her rent after a decade in downtown.
She said that after three years of no increase, her rent shot up around $2,000. LaRocca said she sensed something might change when she met with the building’s owners to discuss their lease agreement.
“It felt like we were being forced out basically,” she said after ringing up a customer. “It was offensive that they gave us no notice. But it’s just not me, there are others facing similar situations around downtown with rent increases.”
After an intense debate, she said they managed to agree to a short six-month lease that allowed her to keep the doors open through the holiday season and long enough to give notice to her vendors. She didn’t want to mark up her prices: she realized that tactic wouldn’t work.
The store acted as LaRocca family treasure. After working there for a year, Kim bought the store in the wake of her son’s death three years ago. Her middle son Matt died from brain cancer, but before he died, the toy store was one of his favorite places to visit.
In his honor, she has a corner of her store dedicated to him. Giant stuffed animals are among the toys in his section along with gag-related items.
“Or anything with bacon,” she said with a smile. “But this store was better therapy than money could have ever had. This is all I’ve done since he’s been gone. I look around and realize he’s stood here in this spot and been there. It’s an emotional attachment to here, too.”
In addition to higher rent, LaRocca said she also faces problems with battling the regular issues of retail and the fact that anyone could buy their toys online from Amazon. But LaRocca still thinks that Main Street Toy Shoppe fills a spot along the strip of businesses that no one else offers.
She’s one of the only spots where kids can play and romp around without the constant fear of ever breaking anything.
“The biggest compliment I take is when kids go out of here screaming because they don’t want to leave,” she said with a laugh. “I still think this town needs a toy store like this. I’ve had several other shop owners beg me to stay.”
But there came to a point where LaRocca realized that her reason has to trump emotion. Now other Franklin downtown owners have flitted in and out, looking at different display pieces they might want from her storefront. With its leaving, LaRocca said they are looking to eventually liquidate.
“People get into business for money,” she said. “That wasn’t what it was for us. My heart is sad for my customers.”
In the meantime, she said she will still work to find a new location.
New tenants for the space haven’t been announced.