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'Favorite Toy Store' Owner: 'Bank Put Me Out of Business'

Sudden closing has residents lamenting the loss of a "great place to shop." Both Elmhurst and Downers Grove stores have closed.

My Favorite Toy Store, 5137 Main St. in Downers Grove, has closed.
My Favorite Toy Store, 5137 Main St. in Downers Grove, has closed.

—By Lauren Traut and Karen Chadra

Originally posted Friday, Jan. 3, 12 p.m. 

A beloved local toy store with locations in Downers Grove and Elmhurst was unexpectedly shuttered Dec. 30—and few are more heartbroken than owner Mike Geisen. 

Geisen said he had no choice. The closing is a result of bank action pertaining to his longterm business loan, he said. The bank took a lump-sum out of his business checking account, to cover what was left of his loan. The withdrawal left him without sufficient funds to operate. His lawyer advised him not to incur any additional costs at the store—and so he closed up shop immediately. 

The doors were closed and locked Dec. 31, and will remain so. Social media has been buzzing with the news of the abrupt closing.  Patrons who call the stores this week will hear the following message:

"Thank you for calling My Favorite Toy store. I'm sorry, but we are closed and will not re-open. I apologize for the short notice. I had no choice in the matter."

The bank, which Geisen chose not to publicly name, declined comment. 

Many of the stores' 12,000 active customers are quite disappointed to hear the news. Geisen, whose Downers Grove shop at 5137 Main St. ran for 12 years and Elmhurst location for 8, has been fielding their calls for days. Many have questions about gift cards recently issued at the store. Unfortunately, Geisen said, there's no way he can honor those cards. 

"There are going to be a lot of bummed DG kids and moms," wrote one fan of the store, to Patch. "It was a great unique toy store. We were lucky to have it here in downtown DG."

"This was my favorite place to get unique birthday gifts for my kids and their friends," another fan wrote. "So sad! The staff and owners are very nice people and always willing to help you find a great gift. It's a big loss for DG."
The Downtown Downers Grove Management Corporation also expressed its sadness over the closing.

"Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and certainly, the heart of our Village's downtown," the association said in a statement on its Facebook page. "My Favorite Toy Store has become a centerpiece of our downtown merchant mix and has became a destination for all ages.

"The Downtown Management Corporation exists, in part, to be advocates for our Downtown businesses. But the very nature of business, and in particular small family businesses, is that there are daily challenges—some which at times can become extreme. ... Our Village is better for having shared this time with My Favorite Toy Store."

No one is more disappointed than Geisen. 

"Hands-down the best part about the business was talking to customers, helping people find the perfect gift," he said. "People would come in, find a special gift, and walk away smiling.

"I know there will be kids running down the street ahead of their parents, and they'll pull on the door handle, and it will be locked. And that just tears me up."

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DHD January 03, 2014 at 02:28 PM
Not honoring the gift cards how nice. I went there one time and I bought a 6 inch diameter rubber ball and they charged me $9.00 for it. What a rip off. I'm suprised it lasted as long as it did.
Harold Sullivan January 03, 2014 at 06:45 PM
Lots of businesses leaving downtown lately. It's going to be a ghost town soon.
Mike Richardson January 03, 2014 at 10:49 PM
I salute Mr. Geisen for the brave try. Retail is not for the faint-hearted.
Leeza January 03, 2014 at 10:54 PM
I agree!! Mike ran a fabulous business that lasted for 12 glorious years! Customers loved his knowledge of great toys and his great sense of humor!!
joseph a pritasil jr January 03, 2014 at 11:32 PM
What a loss to our community. I'll miss seeing Mike every time we're in town. Truly an asset to our downtown.
joseph alotta January 04, 2014 at 10:27 AM
Why doesn't Patch organize residents to buy shares in the toy store and then open it again with the whole community as owners. This is your opportunity to shine, Patch!
Local Resident January 04, 2014 at 11:50 AM
The bank did not close down the store. They refused to extend credit to a business that was no longer viable. It would be interesting to know how much money the owner took out of the business before it closed. The owner is revealing his true self by blaming the bank and not refunding the gift cards. He is stealing money from the children in the community that received those cards as Christmas gifts. How low can you get. He should refund the money out of his own pocket. He did not run that store for all these years and not earn a good living.
Leeza January 04, 2014 at 02:14 PM
No longer viable??? Wow...do you know the owner?? I am just curious. I've known him for years and this is certainly not his style. He worked hard to bring fabulous toys to the children. I hardly think he stayed up at night thinking of ways to hurt and steal from the children. Shame on you...
DHD January 04, 2014 at 02:49 PM
I agree and think it's very unethical if he sold gift cards at Christmas time knowing damn well he was going to shut his doors January 1st.
Leeza January 04, 2014 at 02:54 PM
It WOULD be unethical, I agree.. But, I assure you, this is NOT Mike Geisen!!
Scott C. January 04, 2014 at 03:53 PM
Seriously...while I don't know Mike personally, I find it to be little more than incendiary hyperbole to suggest that a man who voluntarily manned his shop even when it was well-staffed, spent incredible amounts of time talking with his customers, sat outside on hot summer nights with free tattoos, a sponge and a bucket of water applying tattoos to any child (or parent!) who asked, was scamming his customers in the final hours of the holiday season just to make an extra couple bucks. Many a retail operation has pushed through the holiday season in the hopes of year-end rush making the bank happy. This happens. The Grinch is a great movie, to be sure, but Mike isn't very Grinch-like and his actions FOR YEARS speak far louder than the words of a few anonymous online chicken littles. I'll be interested to see how this shakes out and am hoping that the shop reopens.
marty January 04, 2014 at 04:01 PM
Same thing the bank did not give him the funds period. The bank should be paying for these gift cards. This should wake everyone up in our community and see how bad the economy really is. I'm sure more downtown stores will close. They charge too much for merchandise.
Anonymous January 04, 2014 at 06:01 PM
To Local Resident, How dare you say such harsh things about a man who had to invest his hard earned money into his wife's cancer battle. Mike is and never was a greedy person. Do you personally know him? Obviously not. You should learn the true facts before bashing someone...
Peter Flanagan January 05, 2014 at 09:44 AM
All I have to say is this...the Village Council better get off its butt and do something revitalize the business community in Downers Grove. Main Street is becoming a patchwork of vacant storefronts and here-today, gone-tomorrow "specialty" shops. Ogden Avenue in Downers is beginning to look like Ogden Avenue on Chicago's West Side. Cripes, even the Burger King is gone. If the village can't even support a Burger King...we got problems.
Jane Ignoffo January 05, 2014 at 09:55 AM
I did all my toy shopping here for the holidays. I love this store. I hope someone buys the business and maintains the wonderful quality here. If not, someone could open another yogurt shop!!
Jane Ignoffo January 05, 2014 at 09:56 AM
My comments refer to the Elmhurst location but I'm sure Downers is the same.
marty January 05, 2014 at 01:41 PM
Honestly, Peter what is the village going to do? This is the responsibility of the business's not their job to be a nanny. Wake up and stop living in a bubble.
Harold Sullivan January 05, 2014 at 01:53 PM
marty: The village can and does attract new businesses to downtown. All cities and villages do this, it's nothing new or unusual. I believe that is what Peter is referring to. I believe you're the one that needs to wake up, bubble boy.
marty January 05, 2014 at 02:46 PM
Harold your living in a bubble too. Have fun living in your make believe world.
Harold Sullivan January 05, 2014 at 03:46 PM
marty: so you're saying that cities and villages DO NOT attract new businesses? Are you new to this world? Seriously man, learn something about business, about government, about ANYTHING. Sheesh. I hope you're not teaching MY kids.
mark January 05, 2014 at 04:26 PM
Hey Harold Sullivan, I bet the government will take that land for back taxes abd move in some minorities and create a ghetto to get more Democratic voters, I see how the banks and government conspire against small businesses!
Harold Sullivan January 05, 2014 at 06:25 PM
mark: You think the government is going to "create" a ghetto at Main St & Curtiss? And I thought I was paranoid. You just get back from Colorado, Mark?
Scott C. January 05, 2014 at 07:40 PM
The last five posts are precisely why I have avoided the Patch for the better part of a year. Good grief. Anyway...about the toy store that closed...
marty January 05, 2014 at 08:59 PM
It's called free speech Scott if you don't like it too bad. Our founding fathers made sure we had this right.
Kent Frederick January 05, 2014 at 09:35 PM
Let's remember that, depending on the language of a loan agreement, banks can call in commercical loans with little or no notice. I seem to remember that Michael's Fresh Market closed its DG store, in part, because one of its lenders unexpectedly called in a loan. To conserve cash, Michael's stopped stocking shelves, sold off the inventory, then closed the store. Eventually, Michael's filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, because the calling in of the loan caused a cash flow problem. Operations were profitable, but it couldn't generate enough cash to pay off the amount of principle that the bank was seeking to collect. My guess is that the bank pulled money out of My Favorite Toy Store's accounts with little or no notice, leaving the owner with some hard choices about paying employees, refunding gift cards, and paying outstanding bills (rent, utilities, taxes, merchandise). What would be nice is if an executive at another bank saw what happed, realized that the business has been a going concern for more than a decade, and offered a loan to get the stores opened.
Kent Frederick January 05, 2014 at 09:45 PM
Here's what I don't understand. Businesses on Main Street have been closing left and right, including My Favorite Toy Store, Bead Heaven, Runners Grove, and Carlson Paints. The Brigantine Gallery moved to space on Ogden Ave., but that space is still empty. Yet, the Village wanted to turn the vacant bank by the library into a small shopping mall. My understanding is that the developer has backed out of the proposal. Too back the Village Council nixed the idea of turning the vacant bank into the seniore assisted living facility. And doesn't Greg Hose think that 63rd St. should be turned into another Odgen Ave.? Before we create new retail space, perhaps the Village could put more effort into filling up the vacant space on Main and elsewhere in DG. The old Fuddrucker's on Lemont near 75th has been vacant since April of 2010, nearly 4 years.
Harold Sullivan January 05, 2014 at 09:48 PM
Everyone, let's welcome back Scott C. who is back after a lengthy absence. Scott C., how about skipping over comments that annoy you? This way you can concentrate on the ones that really interest you. Is that so difficult? Nobody likes a whiney crybaby. The world's got enough of those.
Scott C. January 06, 2014 at 01:00 AM
Oh Harold, thank you. So kind. Both in your welcoming words and in proving my point. Much obliged.
Benton Bullwinkel January 06, 2014 at 05:30 PM
Lots of business have gone this route. Banks only advertise that they support small business. Truth is that to them annual sales of 1 - 10 million is a small business. I know how my bank makes their money ... Fees and I hate them for it. Don't believe the ads on TV. Your bank hates you and loves your money....
marty January 06, 2014 at 09:53 PM
Kent the village controls what they want and what they don't want. It's all political.

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