Wednesday, October 30, 2019

There Are Dead Retailers That Still Walk Among Us...

Toys R Us #8712
3195 PGA Boulevard, Palm Beach Gardens, FL

     Happy Halloween everyone! In the spirit of the holiday, it's only fitting that the subject of today's post is a pop-up Halloween store operating in the shell of a dearly departed retailer. Spooky right? OK, what we'll be seeing here today may not rank as high on the scary chart as this, this, or especially this, but I feel that a dead retail establishment will still be a fun way to celebrate Halloween on MFR. Well, maybe not as fun as a Halloween party or a big bowl of candy, but I can only provide you all with so much!

     The subject of today's spooky post is the former Toys R Us store in Palm Beach Gardens. Located across the street from The Gardens Mall, Toys R Us placed itself in one of the busiest retail corridors in Northern Palm Beach County upon its opening in 1992. To this day the stretch of PGA Boulevard between Interstate 95 and US 1 is a major retail hub, especially for high end shopping. To fit in better with the ritzy aesthetic of the area, Toys R Us strayed away from their usual early 90's design and chose a custom exterior design for their Palm Beach Gardens store. That custom design resulted in the graceful arched exterior we've seen in the last few photos, a design I very much like (although I am a sucker for arches). Toys R Us remained in this building until the company announced total liquidation in early 2018, with this store closing on June 29, 2018 with all the remaining Toys R Us stores in the United States. As Toys R Us was shedding many of its remaining assets following the company's liquidation, an affiliate of the retail developer Benderson Corporation purchased this building from the bankrupt Toys R Us in November 2018. Benderson is actively seeking a new tenant for this building, but for the time being, Spirit Halloween was given the opportunity to operate out of here for the 2019 Halloween season.

     Spirit has made themselves quite at home here in Palm Beach Gardens, even going to the extent of placing a semi-permanent sign on front of this building where Toys R Us's logo once was (which could be seen in prior pictures). Reaching the front doors, just what ghastly remains of a dead retailer will we find rising from the grave inside?...

     AHHHHHH! I see dead retail! (And a scary clown!) Entering Spirit Halloween, our old pal Pennywise greets all shoppers who dare enter this place. Nothing gives off a hearty 'welcome' like a blood hungry clown that preys on children's fears, right? Hopefully he sticks to preying on children and not retail history bloggers, but I've never trusted clowns very much, so I'm keeping my eyes on him...

     Creepy clowns aside, let's run away from those and head deeper into this store. Just what remains from Toys R Us lie within these walls?...

     Much to my disappointment, Spirit's partition walls were built to be fairly tall, blocking most of the Toys R Us wall decor that remained throughout the building. Spirit takes up a chuck of space in the center of TRU's sales floor, with the above photo looking across the width of Spirit's space. I was never in this store while it was a Toys R Us, so I'm not all too familiar with how the departments were laid out when TRU was still open. However, Google Reviews still has its photos of this store in operation available for viewing, so you can take a look at those here. From looking through those Google photos, where I was standing to take this picture would have been in the general area of the Lego department.

     Even though Spirit's tall shelves blocked much of the remains from Toys R Us, we won't be at a total loss of decor remnants in here! Looking toward the front of the store in this photo, some small bits of Toys R Us decor are poking up above Spirit's merchandise.

     While the scary clown standing guard at the front door was creepy enough, the fact that I was the only shopper in here during the time of my visit was even creepier. While it's much easier and efficient to take photos when you've got nearly free range of the place, it's still a weird experience. The store was eerily quiet besides some random display props screaming and a Meghan Trainor song playing in the background. I guess for a Halloween store, a weird feeling can translate as a good one!

     As for those sought after Toys R Us decor remnants, I wasn't going to leave this place empty handed! The only good glimpses of Toys R Us remnants I was able to get were through the passage breaks in Spirit's shelves. These breaks allow for Spirit's employees to access their "backroom", which is comprised of the remaining unused sales floor space from Toys R Us. The breaks in the shelves were covered by black curtains, but some of the curtains were left pushed open, allowing me to grab pictures through them. The above photo was taken through a shelving break on the right side of the building, showing off some old decor from the Kids R Us/Clothing department.

     Moving to the back of Spirit's sales floor, the shelves get in the way again.

     Beyond the haunted house in the foreground, Toys R Us's yellow walls poke out above the shelves and costumes. What I lack in pictures of old Toys R Us decor, I made up for in shelving scars. There was no shortage of those throughout Spirit's sales floor!

     In the back left corner of the store, I was able to get another peek through the mysterious curtain into the vast unknown behind it. Beyond the pile of boxes are some random unsold fixtures from Toys R Us, as well as what appears to be remnants from the infant's toy department.

     In the mask department we find another open curtain, behind this one the corridor that led to the restrooms.

     Looking down the left side of the Spirit's sales floor, we've now wandered into the children's costume department. Spirit's registers were located straight ahead on my left, with the exit down a narrow corridor to the right. Toys R Us's old registers would have been located on the other side of the partition wall to my right, but those appeared to have been removed.

     Our last interior photo looks toward Spirit's register, which is hidden behind all the prop displays. And it appears that another creepy clown has found us, so let's run for our lives before he gets any ideas!

     Back in the safety of the parking lot, far away from any more clowns (I hope!), here's one last overview of the exterior of the old Toys R Us store. I said it before and I'll say it again, the arches were a very nice touch!

     On the way back to the car, I peeked into one of the old cart corrals to find it had turned into a small dumping ground in the time since Toys R Us left. It's not a pleasant sight, but I'm sure Spirit doesn't care about what these corrals look like. It will be the problem of whatever moves in here next to clean the place up.

     So that's about it for the former Toys R Us store in Palm Beach Gardens. However, this post isn't over yet, as I'd like to share some Halloween retail memorabilia with everyone to conclude this post:

     I don't have any retail memorabilia to share right now directly relating to Toys R Us, so this will have to substitute instead. The piece of memorabilia I'll be sharing with everyone today is a plastic bag that came to us from another dead retailer: Builder's Square. This bag was one of the more recent acquisitions for my bag collection, coming from an estate sale that was chock full of old bags. While this bag is the standard size and make for one you'd get at the register for your purchase, I don't think these bags were printed up to be used that way. Instead, I believe they were made to be given out to children for use as trick-or-treating bags, as the bag has Halloween safety tips printed on the front and back. McGruff the Crime Dog also makes an appearance on the bag (as it's not a 90's safety campaign without him!), as well as the Builder's Square logo and yet another one of those pesky clowns!

     On the back of the bag McGruff shares with us his Halloween safety tips, on behalf of everyone at Builder's Square. While McGruff was a common symbol in schools and for police outreach events in the 1980's and 1990's, he seems to have fallen by the wayside in recent years. He still does pop up from time to time in modern safety campaigns, but certainly not as often as he once did. Actually, McGruff's most famous recent appearance was in a GEICO ad in 2018, and not a safety campaign!

     From a tour of an old Toys R Us to a brief look at some Builder's Square memorabilia, that's all the dead retail I have for now. As I conclude this post I have to ask, did it just get cold and drafty all of a sudden, or is that me? It's probably just me, as the sight of all those creepy clowns sneaking into my photos is just getting to my mind. Anyway, I hope you guys enjoyed this post---

     OK, why do I now feel the sensation of a cold hand on my shoulder, and heavy breathing down the back of my neck? No, I'm not panicking at all, what makes you think that? Anyway, back to what I was trying to say before, that's all I have for now. I probably should wrap things up before---

     "Hello AFB. Want a balloon?"

     Hey, who just typed that, and why are you interrupting the conclusion of my post? Identify yourself!

     "I'm everything you ever were afraid of."

      Alright now, think through this logically AFB. It's probably just one of the other MFR contributors taking over my post as a Halloween prank. Yeah, that's right, a prank! It's probably Retail Retell, you little trickster you. I knew you'd be up to something! Retail Retell, that is you, right? Retail Retell? No, Cape Kennedy Retail maybe? Duckman? YonWoo? Someone? Anyone? Why is the breathing down my neck getting heavier? What's that sharp thing poking my back? What's---AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

He preys on retail history bloggers too! (And you thought Paul Blart was the only threat to our kind!) You have now been warned!

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AFB's shenanigans aside, Happy Halloween to all, from everyone here at My Florida Retail!

(And yes, AFB is going to be having nightmares about killer clowns for a very long time now 😁)


  1. This is the spirit of Yon Woo.I went to capture some more photos of the abandoned Sweetbay in Hudson. To my peril, as I was photographing inside the left corner entrance, an Alien, Chucky, Jason Voorhees, and the said Clown pulled into the building and killed me. I knew I was taking a risk, but I guess I was being too dangerous. Keep a lookout on that clown and his buddy Chucky. They are the most dangerous!

  2. Too bad McGruff didn't step in to save you, AFB. You should have spent more of the post summoning him instead of evil clowns! :P

    Happy Halloween!