When Kim LaRocca started working part-time at the Main Street Toy Shoppe in Franklin, Tennessee, she had no idea she would own the store one day. Kim took the position in August 2011 after the death of her 12-year-old son Matt.
The third of four children, Matt had a successful surgery to remove a brain stem tumor, but then developed pneumonia following the surgery. His death was truly devastating for the entire family. “How do you make good out of the death of a child?” she wondered. Looking for an escape, Kim found comfort inside Matt’s favorite toy store because it was a place she could feel his presence.
A few months after she began working there, the toy store went up for sale. Realizing this unexpected path could mean a new destiny for her family, Kim and her husband purchased the business.
Kim set up a special section in the store called “Matt’s Corner,” displaying his picture and all the toys he loved – a sweet memorial for her incredibly smart and funny son. The LaRoccas say that the Franklin community has really reached out, making the store a place of healing for their small town and a way to connect with other families experiencing similar struggles.
If you’ve never been there, Franklin is a model for historic Main Streets everywhere. It has been beautifully restored, and the charming downtown area is filled with thriving shops and restaurants. Williamson County is an affluent community thanks to several corporate headquarters located there and many people in the music and professional sports industries calling it home.
“I love going to work everyday in downtown Franklin. It’s full of charm, tradition, history and faces that have become not just customers but friends. I love that Williamson County residents are so devoted to small businesses like us.” The Downtown Franklin Association and the Heritage Foundation help support this “Mayberry”-like town. They have several street festivals and promote the Saturday after Thanksgiving as “Small Business Saturday”.
Because the LaRoccas prefer to support local businesses themselves, Kim purchases the majority of their gift packaging from Nashville Wraps. She explains, “The pricing is better than the competitors, and the customer service is great.”
Kim shares her advice to gift retailers just starting out: “Jump in with both feet and don’t look back. Find something that you are passionate about and have natural talent for and run with it. Life is full of adventure! This is one of my favorite quotes to live by: ‘Whatever you do, whatever you are, whatever you become, you have to make it happen. Do something. Start something. Anything. Go. See. Do. Learn. Love.’”
Main Street Toy Shoppe’s store window display is one of the store’s biggest attractions. Children can be seen gazing in almost any time of the day. Kim said, “We are constantly keeping up with finger prints and listening to the squeals as they drag their parents into the store. We hope our store windows are reflections of what joy looks like in the eyes of a child.”
If you are ever in the area, the Main Street Toy Shoppe is filled with classic toys that will put a smile on faces of all ages. To read more about Kim’s touching story, please see The Tennessean’s feature, “A Happy Place to Heal”.