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News >  Business

General Store adds toy section after closure of White Elephant

UPDATED: Wed., Nov. 11, 2020

Tom Barany, left, special operation manager, and Tim Parlor, special operations assistant manager, display some of the many toys now offered at The General Store at 2424 N. Division St. in Spokane.  (Dan Pelle/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Tom Barany, left, special operation manager, and Tim Parlor, special operations assistant manager, display some of the many toys now offered at The General Store at 2424 N. Division St. in Spokane. (Dan Pelle/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
By Thomas Clouse The Spokesman-Review

Just months after the closure of the iconic White Elephant stores in Spokane, another longtime retailer, The General Store, has added a new toy section after the owners saw an opportunity.

Owner Bruce Barany said he shed tears when the Conley family closed the White Elephant on North Division Street. Both stores were started about 75 years ago as businesses that sold surplus military equipment.

“We’ve been in toys, but we were kind of tiptoeing around it. We were wannabes not making a margin on it,” Barany said. “But this time, we jumped in because we sensed there was a void.”

Barany, 66, has sons Tom and Miles working for him at the store at 2424 N. Division.

Tom Barany is heading up the effort to convert about 3,000 square feet of the upstairs portion of The General Store from a clearance area with some camping equipment to toys.

“Our family histories go back extensively over the years,” Tom Barany said of the Conley family. “We’ve always had friendly competition with the White Elephant for sporting goods and toys.”

But toys at the General Store were always a seasonal item that disappeared after the holidays. Tom Barany said he has been working several months with vendors and dealers to make sure the store can provide the games needed to keep the toy section stocked all year.

While the toy section is already in place, the store will host an event to launch the new section on Saturday, when it will hold a raffle and give out $10 store gift certificates for every $50 or more spent to purchase toys.

“We’ve got books, puzzles, board games, things for babies, infants, toddlers, science toys … and drones,” Tom Barany said.

Some popular building blocks, such as Lego, have been difficult to locate during the coronavirus pandemic, he said.

“Lego had a factory closure down in Mexico that significantly impaired their ability to provide new sets to stores,” he said. “Hot Wheels and Barbie are ordered and on the way. We are waiting for Mattel and Hasbro and some of the other mainstream vendors, like Fisher-Price, to come in.”

The family then hopes to expand the toy section further.

“As far as the next part, all we have been slowed by is the supply-chain issues that most people have faced during the COVID time period,” Tom Barany said.

Bruce Barany said the idea to add toys full time didn’t become a reality until his son mapped out how to make the toy section work. They are working with a worldwide buying group out of Seattle and have worked with Hooked on Toys and Sporting Goods, in Wenatchee, which has a Conley-family connection, he said.

White Elephant “had a fabulous toy department for 75 years just a few blocks away. When they closed, it was the end of an era, quite literally,” Bruce Barany said.

Barany’s father, the late William Barany, started The General Store about the same time as the late John “John R.” Conley Sr. started White Elephant.

“If my father was alive, he’d put an argument about who was first. It was neck and neck,” Barany said. “Dad claimed he was first.”

Now, only the Baranys hope to carry on the toy legacy on North Division.

“We sensed if we were going to get into toys year round, now is the time to do it,” he said. “We’ve pretended for a few years. Now we are for real.”

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