By Josh Davis, Associate Editor
(March 21, 2019) Just weeks after Walt’s Train Shop rolled out of 8 Pitts Street in downtown Berlin, Toy Town Antiques has officially stationed itself there, starting with a soft opening last weekend and officially opening Monday.
The move came after public quarreling with Town of Snow Hill officials last month led to closure of the 6,800 square-foot former Outten Theater building on 207 North Washington Street.
Snow Hill officials cited safety concerns with the aged building and refused to grant an occupancy permit, while storeowners Richard and Debbie Seaton pointed to a five-year memorandum of understanding to complete repairs and more than $150,000 they’d already put into renovations and repairs.
When Toy Town was forcibly shuttered, the Seatons sought a second, satellite location to keep some revenue coming in.
While the Snow Hill store carries many larger items, from antique furniture to vintage cars, the Berlin location is populated with many smaller, “cash and carry” items.
Inside the store on Monday were vintage toys, dolls, toy cars, trains and comic books. Costume jewelry was priced at $2 each, and several rows of collectable coins were on display in a glass case by the cash register.
Larger items include a life-size statue of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800 from “The Terminator,” as well as a vintage fortune-telling machine similar to the one in the 1988 Tom Hanks movie “Big.”
The Seatons said it was great to be back in Berlin and the soft opening was warmly received. They formerly operated a store on the town’s Main Street, before moving to Snow Hill in 2016.
“We had everybody stop by. We had the mailman stop by, police officers, store owners and regulars – everybody’s been stopping by [and saying] ‘we’re so glad you’re back,’” Debbie Seaton said. “Everyone’s been really supportive.”
She said last Saturday was especially busy.
“There were so many people walking around and so many people coming into the store. It was like, ‘Wow!’ I missed this. Plus, here we have the support of the town.”
Richard Seaton said he plans to bring several more large showcases, or glass display cases, during the next several weeks. Items in the store are already moving fast and regularly being replaced with new merchandise, he said.
“We’ll be full-power in a month – I mean 110 percent,” he said. “It’s nice to make money again, because I was unemployed – they basically took my job from me.”
Regarding the situation in Snow Hill, an April 5 court date looms in the District Court for Worcester County.
“We’re still trying to get the issue worked out in Snow Hill,” Debbie Seaton said, adding that the ideal would be both locations operating simultaneously and benefitting each other, not to mention the business districts in each town.
“We’re not walking away from Snow Hill. We want to be there,” she continued. “We love the people of the town and we love the business owners. We’re just having trouble with Town Hall.”
She did not rule out a countersuit against Snow Hill to recover money already invested. The Seatons had an agreement to renovate the building there over five years, with the town agreeing to then deed over the property.
“Right now we’re not going that route. What we’re doing is we’re just waiting until the court date to go ahead and see how that goes with the occupancy, and then go from there,” Seaton said.
“It’s a shame we’re closed down there, but hopefully we’ll get open and we’ll have both places,” she continued. “But we had to do something.”
Berlin Economic and Community Development Director Ivy Wells on Monday delivered a business license to the Seatons. Shortly after the Snow Hill location was closed on Feb. 27, Wells began looking for a suitable location for the shop in Berlin.
“This happened so fast,” Wells said. “From the time that we started this until the time that they opened took absolutely no time at all, and we’re very happy to have them back.”
Toy Town Antiques in Berlin will be open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, through April. Hours will expand in May.
For more information, search “Toy Town Antiques & More” on Facebook.