When you walk into Darien Toy Box on the Post Road in Darien, Connecticut, you might feel as if you’ve been magically transported into the fantastical world of Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium filled to the brim with unique toys from around the world, collectables and an animated jungle with Winston, a life size Orangutan that moves and tells jokes to children. Ever since he was a child, Darien Toy Box owner Bill Jensen otherwise affectionately known as Mr. Bill, Bill or Chief Toy Man, wanted to make toys and dreamed of having his own toy store. Loving all kinds of toys as a kid, he had a special affinity for LEGO’s® and the WBritain® brand name of toy and collectable soldiers.
After 27 years in the oil business, Bill Jensen retired and shortly after in 2008, realized his childhood dream.
“I was driving through Darien one afternoon and saw this location and immediately knew it was the perfect spot for a toy store,” Jensen recalled. “It all fell into place perfectly after that.”
At first Jensen borrowed money from family and friends, leased the space in Darien and filled his store with a modest inventory of specialty toys, not found in major toy stores or even online. Uniquely handcrafted Sirch® wooden toys made in Germany, Playforever® racing cars made in the United Kingdom, WBritain® American Civil War toy soldiers and collectables and of course LEGO’s® are just some of the toys that line the walls of what looks like a life size toy box. And on May 12, 2008, Jensen opened Darien Toy Box.
As business started to grow, Jensen’s landlord, a longtime customer of First County Bank, introduced him to Rey Giallongo, then President of First County Bank, today Chairman and CEO and Mark Rosenbloom, one of First County Bank’s business development officers who at the time was working out of the Bank’s Darien branch.
This was the start of his relationship with First County Bank. By September of that year, with Christmas around the corner and interest in specialty toys on the rise, Jensen met with Giallongo and Rosenbloom to discuss applying for an inventory loan.
“They really went out of their way to help me with what I needed to help grow my business,” said Jensen. He secured an inventory loan that he would pay back in 2-3 months, which he did, and was approved for a business credit card.
Darien Toy Box has showed phenomenal growth since 2008 and continues to grow with the majority of his customers coming from Darien, Rowayton, and others from New Canaan, Stamford along with out-of-state and overseas customers who need a gift delivered to relatives in Darien. His regulars, of course, are children who sometimes refer to him as the ‘babysitter.’ Recently Jensen received a letter from a 7th grader who visited Darien Toy Box for a school project – she needed to find a science fiction book for Science Fiction Day. She says in her letter, ‘…I chose your store because it’s kid friendly and also educational. Your store reminds me of Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, a place kids come to learn and have fun.’ He chuckles, “…that’s what it’s all about for me.”