Ah, Black Friday: Today marks the official start of the holiday-shopping season. We’ve made our lists, checked them twice, and mapped out a plan to hit our favorite area retailers to get the shopping party started. Our first stop: Princeton’s magical, marvelous toy shop Jazams (click here to read all about owners Joanne Farrugia and Dean Smith from the latest issue of Bricks & Mortar: Fall/Winter 2019).
A main tenet of the Jazams philosophy is that play is important—no matter what your age. So selecting the ideal amalgam of items found in the store is a Jazamily affair, led by Smith, who does much of the buying, along with Farrugia and Lahaska store manager Shannon Leedy (who focus on books). Feedback from the staff and the couple’s son, Felix, is helpful, too. “It’s about having things in the store for every age, and economic and cultural background,” Smith says. “I want everybody who walks through the door to feel like something here is going to touch their being, make them feel, in some way, more alive.”
Below, a few of the Jazamily’s favorite things that are guaranteed to delight all of the kids—and kids at heart—on your gift-giving list.
Way To Play Road System
“If you’re talking design, the Way To Play ‘King of the Road’ System is one of my absolute favorites. There are some cheaper versions out there, but these are made so well. They are so fun for kids who love cars and vehicles because you just put them all over the house and let them go. You can incorporate them with your trains, too.”
Gruenspecht Wooden Marble Tree
“One of the things I love in the store always and forever is something we own in our house: the Wooden Marble Tree by Gruenspecht. When you release the marbles at the top of the tree, you watch as they spin and roll through the wooden ‘leaves,’ making a warm and pleasant sound. As the marbles fall on each leaf of the tree, they produce a perfectly tuned note each time.”
Nic Toys CombiCar
This German-made ride-on toy is a classic, crafted from high-quality beech wood using nontoxic paints, and a piece that is an investment, but worth every penny. “The Nic CombiCar ride-on toy is by far one of my absolute favorite things in the store. I think it’s one of the greatest toys money can buy. If you like to buy less, just buy beautiful. It’s really the best-designed ride-on, in terms of its durability, and the design is incredible.”
Free Play Magnatab
Of course, Jazams isn’t a kids-only experience. “We’ve always carried desk toys and fun fidgets, as we called them, and then three years ago, the New York Times does a full-color feature in the “Lifestyle” section of all these toys we’d carried for decades, and they were calling ‘adult toys.’” One such item is the Magnatab. “It was designed by a Swiss company for adults as a desk toy made out of wood with a beautiful wood stylus. It was gorgeous. And then [another] company made it into a kid’s toy, for ages three and up. So whenever people say, ‘Oh, I can’t buy that for my eight-year-old,’ we’re like, ‘It’s actually for adults.’”