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From there to here: What led Barb Hollenbeck to own a toy shop

Barb Hollenbeck showed off one of her favorite toys at the shop — a stacking toy where the pieces spin downward. "I find that adults like it just as much as the kids, and if adults like it they will play with it with the kid," Hollenbeck said. Kelsey Roy / RiverTown Multimedia

"I have a really strange path to being a toy store owner," Barb Hollenbeck, owner of SC Toys in Hastings, laughed. "I just kind of fell into the toy business."

After graduating high school, Hollenbeck had no idea what she wanted to do with her life, other than knowing for sure that she didn't want to go to college.

"So what did I do? I went into the Army," Hollenbeck said. For three years, Hollenbeck was stationed in Germany, working in the intelligence field.

After serving in the military, Hollenbeck decided that she would go to school. She started her degree at the University of Houston and finished it at the University of Minnesota, studying political science and anthropology.

When Hollenbeck married her husband, Bob, she helped him run his store, of which she was previously a part-time employee, in Anoka that sold dolls and quilts.

In 1995, the Hollenbecks got the opportunity to buy a space in downtown Hastings. After a year of renovations, the business moved into its new home, and slowly evolved into what is now SC Toys.

When the store first moved to Hastings in 1996, Hollenbeck brought vintage items, including toys. But with the growing popularity of online auction websites like Ebay, the business took a turn and Hollenbeck had a new idea. To pull it off, she started saving the money she made from Beanie Babies for an investment.

"That's what you do. Markets change, and as a thriving retail store, you have to change with them," Hollenbeck said. "(The Beanie Babies) gave us a really good cash flow. We took that money and reinvested it into the store and changing the stock. We started going in a different direction, adding new lines of toys."

Many toys found in the shop allow children to express creativity, learn skills, or simply be kids and play — properties that Hollenbeck looks for based on her own experiences with motherhood.

"My son had issues with learning, so he was always a different learner. I always had to search for different things for him to do, to foster that growth," Hollenbeck said. "I look for toys that help you grow and develop, and that allow you to be creative. Creativity is sometimes so underrated in the toy world."

A long time envier of toy stores in the Twin Cities area, in the past five years, Hollenbeck has created her own store with toys that she loves to share.

"It is a lot of fun. It's a lot of fun picking out the products, and finding the perfect fit for a gift for someone who may not know the child," Hollenbeck said, adding that she loves when people come back to the shop to tell her how excited the child was about the gift. "To me, that is really rewarding, and it is one of the coolest things about finding a toy and matching it with the appropriate child."

Although it is has been a strange road to get there, Hollenbeck believes in making lemons into lemonade, and taking the opportunities that life hands to you.

"It wasn't like I went to business school and have always wanted to be an entrepreneur. It just didn't happen that way. I just fell into it," Hollenbeck said. "I think it is a perfect fit."

SC Toys is located downtown Hastings at 212 2nd Street East and is open from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday.

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