Cassie Watt never pictured herself owning a toy store. When she bought Mud Puddle Toys from its previous owner, she thought she would own it for a few months, then pass it onto someone else. But a year and a half later, Watt still owns and runs the shop in Marblehead.
“I ended up loving it, and so it turned into this labor of love and this giant passion for me that I never knew I could have,” Watt said.
Watt now finds herself in the whirlwind that is the holiday season. On Tuesday afternoon, Mud Puddle Toys was filled with customers shopping for the holidays.
To compete with big retailers, she made sure to buy inventory for the season back in February.
“We bought it before the prices went up, so that now we actually do have a lot of prices that are lower than Amazon and lower than Target,” Watt said. “There were predictions that there’s going to be a 20 percent reduction in sales for small businesses this year and we’re not seeing that, so we’re feeling really, really proud of Marblehead for supporting their small businesses.”
While wrapping items in festive paper for a customer, employee of the store Jenn Brooks said the holiday season has been “crazy.” Brooks has been around for 12 years —since the first owner still ran the store.
“I always loved making kids smile. Making the holidays and everything just magical, as magical as it can be,” Brooks said.
Mud Puddle Toys caters to all ages by having a wide selection of toys, books and games. Watt brought in toys from independent brands when she purchased the store, and she expanded the Barbie section, which she said is the most diverse section of Barbie products in the state.
“We carry Barbies that our Barbie rep has never seen in person,” Watt said.
The biggest change they made was expanding the physical store by tearing down a wall and moving into what used to be a sewing shop that didn’t make it through the pandemic.
“We went through this wall, and we were able to actually increase the amount of books we carried, and that sort of coincided with Spirit of ’76 [Bookstore] closing because we don’t have a bookstore in town anymore, so we’ve got a lot of YA and adult books, and just more kids books,” Watt said.
Owning a toy store is a lot of work, she said, but can also be “wild” and a lot of fun.
“I get to play with toys for a living, which is really cool,” Watt said. “I’m a librarian by trade … And I’m having a really fun time having a much more dynamic career. I come in in the morning and it’s go, go, go-go-go, and it’s playing with toys and testing toys and talking about toys and the cute little kids that come in.”
Watt and her kids live in Marblehead, and she said it’s really fun for them to have a mom that owns a toy store. On Tuesday, Maggie Watt, who is in the second grade, was helping out at the store because she had the day off of school.
“We go through the damaged pile, like the toys that are actually damaged,” Maggie said. “We’re allowed to go to logical places that other people can’t like out back or where it says employees only.”
Maggie made sure to point out their dog Jelly who is at the stores most days and is Mud Puddle Toys’ “mascot.”
For the future, Watt hopes to keep having fun with the store and wants to be open for every holiday season.
“I try to keep my goals really manageable, and my whole goal from the start has always been: Let’s keep the shop open and let’s, you know, keep providing awesome fun toys to the kids in town,” Watt said.