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Photo showcase of toy store.

(Photo credit: iStock, GURICH)

Toys “R” Us made headlines this past fall when the once-shuttered retailer became a fixture in Macy’s stores around the country. 

The news may have evoked wistful memories of perusing the aisles for a new toy after bringing home a good report card (before bribery and rewards became polarizing in the parenting world), but big-box shopping is so ho-hum. 

Locally owned East End toy shops often have some of the season’s most popular items that are out of stock everywhere else, including Amazon (hint: It’s a big year for superhero action figures and wooden Montessori toys). Better than that: They have the kind of creatively curated items that you won’t find anywhere else. It’s your chance to leapfrog even Santa himself as the best gift-giver in a child’s life. 

Make your list, check it twice and make a bee-line for these oh-so-nice independent Hamptons toy shops.

Stevenson’s Toys, 69 Jobs Lane, Southampton, 631-283-2111

Stevenson’s has been a fixture on the East End longer than the Hamptons Classic. The toy shop opened as Lillywhite’s in 1895 and re-launched as Stevenson’s in 2001. Brio train sets, Corolle Girl dolls, and more STEM products than a robot can shake a stick at line the shelves. The website is easy to navigate by age and type of toy. In-person, the notably amiable staff can steer you to the perfect present.   

Kites of the Harbor, 75 Main St., Sag Harbor, 631-725-9063

During high season in the Hamptons, locals and guests love popping into this Main Street shop for kites and beach bag essentials they left at home. But Kite’s of the Harbor remains open in the winter months, too. Its eclectic inventory makes it an ideal spot for an off-beat gift. Think emoji and candy-themed pillows, donut pool floats, Webkinz and remote-control cars. 

Cornucopia Gift Shop, 27 West Neck Road, Shelter Island, 631-749-0171 

Corncopia Gift Shop in Shelter Island (Photo credit: Amy Zavatto)

Voted Business of the Year by the Shelter Island Chamber of Commerce, and for good reason. Owner Mary Lou Eichhorn has a knack for knowing what you’re looking for before you do. For over 40 years, she’s stocked the shelves of this magical little shop full of gifts for kids of all ages (and, take note: a not-small portion of which comes from local artisans). For kids, she carries Melissa & Doug, plush animals (Bearington Bears are always a favorite), puzzles, children’s books by local authors, craft kits, and much more. She’s open 7 days a week: Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.. 

Hildreth’s Home Goods, 51 Main St., Southampton, 631-283-2300

Move over, Home Goods and Target. Hildreth’s Home Goods is the Hamptons’ indie answer to houseware heaven, but they’ve got a pretty great kid section, too. Melissa & Doug toys are in stock here, including the mop set that’ll have kids thinking chores are all the rage. You’ll also find bedroom furniture from cribs to nightstands and nautical nursery lamps in between. 

The Wharf Shop, 69A Main St., Sag Harbor, 631-425-0420

The Wharf Shop in Sag Harbor (Photo credit: Amy Zavatto)

This independently-owned toy shop (in business since 1968!) offers something for kids of all ages. Looking for the new Wordle game? They’ve got it. Along with science kits, books, plus toys and puppets and craft supplies that are among the popular picks for children. Jewelry, stationary, Sag-centric holiday ornaments and local novelties impress adults. They’ll even wrap your gift for free. Can’t get to the shop? Shoot the staff an email at [email protected], and someone will play elf for you.

Sugar Daddy’s Toy Store, 103 Main St., Westhampton Beach, 631-288-3537

Classics and collectibles turn people who happen upon this toy shop into regulars. Disney Princesses, Star Wars action figures, balls, Barbies, and Pokemon toys are among the nostalgic-yet-modern finds.