Leaving Capitol Hill not enough: ‘Izilla Toys isn’t needed these days’

Only two months after it left its 12th Ave location to consolide efforts at its Wallingford shop, Izilla Toys has gone out of business. In an email sent to customers, the toy retailer said thanks — and talked about the pain of losing a business.

 Ugh.  This whole thing hurts.  It’s over.  The economy, internet shopping and our inability to find the answers to some pressing questions have forced us to hear the truth that has been yelling in our ears for the last couple years.  Izilla Toys isn’t needed these days.       

We wish it wasn’t so. We love and will miss the shop and all of you, but love, while immensly valuable, isn’t the currency that feeds our family and keeps the heat on.       

Our plan to go forward in partnership with the Peace Play Collaborative hit a poorly timed road block and without that partnership in place we see little chance of recovery.     

Thanks to all of you for your support over the past 9 years.   We cherish the friends our family has made through the the shop.  We have poured our hearts into Izilla Toys and that investment has paid immeasurable dividends.    

Our children have grown up in our shops, interacting with all of you, delighted to share their favorite toys and activities with you.  They regard the community we worked hard to build as an extension of their family.  These are memories I am certain they will hold dear as they grow into adulthood.  Thank you all for your gracious appreciation of their importance to Izilla Toys.     

As we struggled with this decision, many thoughtful people asked what they could do to help.  Here is the simple answer.  If you want interesting and unique local shops to survive and eventually thrive you must do your shopping there.  Go to your local shops BEFORE you go online. Go to them with the understanding that you may not get the same diversity of selection, but what you DO get is so much more important. You get expertise, passion and equity in the growth of your community.  Locally owned business are the first to donate to your schools. Locally owned business are the first to reinvest in your neighborhoods.  Locally owned businesses believed in your unique tastes and values enough to risk it all.  They invested both in their own dreams and in the belief that you value your community’s uniqueness.  Please shop local.  It’s really, really important. 

The store is holding a going of business sale starting today at its 45th St N store.

On 12th Ave, work has begun to transform the former toy shop into Manhattan Drugs, a new burger bar from Laura Olson’s Po Dog family of restaurants and bars.

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39 thoughts on “Leaving Capitol Hill not enough: ‘Izilla Toys isn’t needed these days’

  1. Once the pricing is competitive with online prices.

    I’m sorry, but if I can buy your $119.99 item online for $99.99 instead, I’m going to buy it. I don’t see the reason to spend an extra $20 to support a local business.

    The “equity of growth in your community” really strikes me as self serving. Why should I subsidize your business if you’ve failed to keep up with the times?

  2. It isn’t much of a bargain when you shop at Amazon. You might save $5 but we as a community lose a valuable business like Izilla toys. You think Amazon knows your kids and cares about helping you pick a great toy? Same thing is happening to record and book stores. It matters…shop locally! Thanks Jude and Jen, you will be sorely missed!

  3. Not sure I agree with this. We love Top Ten Toys, another local toy shop, and go there all the time. We also used to shop at Izilla toys back when they were in Madison Valley.

    I think the biggest problem is that the location Izilla had in Capitol Hill was really bad, in a basement and unpleasantly cramped in that basement. It simply wasn’t pleasant to shop there. They moved upstairs eventually, but only when the business was already suffering, and, at that point, the place felt hollowed out and depressing the couple times we ventured in.

    They can try to blame it on online, but that’s only one problem, and probably not even the main problem. I think the main problem was that it just wasn’t great to shop at Izilla in their new location here in Capitol Hill. They had really bad space. I think it was a real shame Izilla moved out of their old space in Madison Valley. I enjoyed going to Izilla Toys when they were there.

  4. except you’re going to spend $20 or more to cover the shipping and the tax on the shipping to get that same item, so there’s a chance you’ll spend more.

  5. That’s why you buy from a site that’s located out of state (no sales tax) that offers free shipping. :)

    I just bought some luggage. Visited a local store, they wanted $350 (with tax it’s $385). Went home, found it online for $350 minus a 10% online coupon with free shipping and no tax (total $315).

    Why should I spend an extra $70 to support a local shop?

    It actually pains me to buy an item from a local retail store nowadays.

  6. If a local shop will price match online pricing then I’m all in.

    Otherwise I don’t like flushing my hard earned money down the toilet.

  7. This is why all Internet sales should be taxed. In fact there should be an additional tax for Internet only sales considering the retailer has less overhead and lower costs to operate.

    What a scam a company like Amazon is getting away with. Our country is broke and going to shit and these etailers are not even collecting sales tax as they put little mom and pop stores out of business. I’m all for entrepreneurship and free markets but level the playing field at least.

  8. Whoever Jo is deserves nothing from this community, because Jo is not a part of it. Jo thinks only about saving 10% and doesn’t give a damn about the world we live in TOGETHER. I hope somebody robs Jo and steals every single thing that Jo owns. Why? In spite.


  9. It’s short-sightedness like that that explains why all our cities are going broke. These taxes you so gleefully avoid are what pays for everything we need to make our city work. In the long run, you’re screwing not only everyone else but yourself too.

    I agree, online sales need to be taxed. Regardless of what Reaganomics has spouted for years, there’s no free lunch. Sooner or later the “chickens come home to roost”.

  10. In the long run, that kind of attitude will lead to Jo’s employer getting rid of people. If she’s not in the kind of business that could be on-lined, don’t worry. It’ll happen to her friends and relatives. It never sinks in until it hits home.

  11. I rather liked the downstairs Izilla space. There was decent signage, so I knew it was there, and I never thought it was cramped. Was it the most ideal store buildout for a toy store? Maybe not, but I certainly didn’t think it was bad, and the layout of toys made sense.

    The one thing about the space that probably hurt them was the parking – parking in that part of Cap Hill is really awful, and I can imagine that many people go to a toy store with children in hand, and that often means driving.

    Sorry to hear they are folding completely, and I agree with everything the owner said in her letter.

    And seriously? We’re getting ANOTHER high-end comfort food restaurant?? ugh.

  12. I don’t have to worry about getting robbed. Since I do all my shopping online I never have to leave the house and don’t have to worry about getting mugged by some thug in Capitol Hill. :)

  13. I think that is really important. The more we lose unique and interesting resources, the more it becomes worthwhile to seek them out and support them. Each of us will have to find out where to draw the line for the proper trade-off in terms of convenience, selection, price. But supporting the local merchants helps a neighborhood thrive.
    And do we really need one more place to eat and drink, for crying out loud?

  14. A small, local business cannot compete with an online retailer. Amazon can buy that $99 item for $25 because they can commit to buying 5000 units. A mom and pop cannot…they’re probably paying $50 for the same item.

    You support local businesses because it’s good for the local economy and it’s good for the neighborhood.

    I can understand poor people paying the cheapest price possible; after all they are poor. But, if you’re buying a $100 luxury toy for your kid, then you can afford to spend the extra $20 to buy it local.

  15. Buying local sounds nice. That is all. If it’s something that doesn’t make economic sense (as determined by being able take in more $ than it pays out) then it should die. If the entrepreneur has half a friggin’ brain that half a friggin’ brain should spend its time doing something else. That’s how we got out of the bronze age to… Well, that’s how we got to the (alas still current) bronze age.

    As for the specifics… Never shopped there. Never had the need. Never had the desire. If I were a parent I’d like to think I’d take the 10 bucks saved by shopping online and put it in the brat’s college fund.

  16. Jo will be one of those people that die in their apartment and no one finds her for weeks because she never went outside and had no one in her community to care.

  17. I was a loyal Izilla customer and shopped at all their locations. I braved traffic and icky parking. I paid more than what I would have paid at Amazon. And I was happy to do it.

    Why? Because of the personalized, friendly customer service. Izilla was a place that I could go to saying, “I have to get something for a 4-year-old boy’s birthday party, but I know nothing about 4-year-old boys” – and Jude or Jen were always full of ideas. I could have a real conversation with them about the kid, and I’d leave with a great gift sure to please. My kids could go play there and feel at home. The staff knew our names. When I called once to see if they had a particular book in stock, could they please put it on hold, explaining that my small daughter had just broken her arm and had been so brave in the ER – I got there to find not only the book but a really nice goodie bag from the store. Every time I came with my hand out asking for a donation for my kids’ school, they gave. The merchandise was carefully chosen, and I would have no problem with my kids playing with any of their items (not a Bratz doll in sight). That kind of relationship is worth something. You can’t say that about an online or big-box retailer.

    I’m far from being a luddite. I shop online all the time – it’s how I find clothes that fit, and I’m pretty addicted to Zappos. But this was a lovely little gem that I wish would have survived. (Sadly, my kids are now more into iPods and books than toys… but I still went there whenever I could). I sit in front of my computer and stare at this glowing screen more than enough – it was great to talk to real, live people. For what it’s worth, I liked all their spaces, especially both places on 12th, parking be damned.

    And for those of you who thought they didn’t have that much selection, you should know that the big retailers have made it really hard for shops like this to stay in business. When I went in looking for Legos Jude said that it was hard to get them – big toy makers want to distribute to big toy sellers. It’s hard for a small shop to get a decent price, or even inventory. How sad.

    Sure, toys were a bit more expensive there – but anyone who is willing to spend $3 on a cup of coffee can’t really start complaining about prices. I’ve blown $ on truly worthless things – this shop was worthwhile.

    Thanks for everything, Jude & Jen. We’ll really miss you.

  18. Why is it that the editors of CHS always delete comments that disagree with Michael Strangeways?

    On a “community” blog you should spend less time attempting to control the message. A community doesn’t mean everyone agrees.

  19. We are going to miss Izilla toys. I did buy a few toys there a couple times and browsed the store tons of time, I really loved their children’s book collection. It was a very charming place when it was in the basement of cap.hill stores. I always wondered how they could survive in cap. hill where rent is so expensive and there is very few children who live around the area.
    Maybe the store can change their business model and operate online somehow. Or maybe they can come back one day when we finally understand the importance of keeping these local business in our communities.

  20. this blog updates more than the other hoods in the city. and in general is a better site that the other, but the ppl that post generally suck.

    just an opinion. but what kind of d-bag is glad to see a cool store leave for yet another short lived food hole.

    the comment about the location being bad is off. a maserati / ferrari dealer and kick ass boom noodle as neighbors sounds pretty good to me.

    anyway. welcome to the new hill. its the way of things. i cracked up yesterday seeing 4 homies sitting outside of nuemos at 5 in the afternoon. LOL when i drove down pike and saw that mess of vagrants.

    after dark all bets are off, but now you get to see that crap during the day.

    the hill isn’t fun anymore. neither is its blog. well maybe the blog.

  21. I couldn’t agree more. Jude and Jen took care of their customers and their community. In addition to solid advice on gifts, they offered free gift wrapping which is a nice perk that you don’t get on-line.

    My family will miss this shop!

  22. They failed me once on customer service. They recommended an expensive toy for my nephew that was WAY over his age ability and my nephew was sad and frustrated with his gift. I even followed up with them via phone and email and they never responded.

    I do like the toy store up in greenwood a lot. they now get my business for the out of town nieces and nephews.

  23. wow, jo, I keep thinking that you’re just being sarcastic. you really don’t care about community, do you? I buy CD’s from local shops (at least I used to before they all went out of biz on the hill) even though it costs a bit more than online. I buy food at Madison Market event though it costs a bit more. I buy books at Elliott Bay even though they cost a bit more. I do this because I want to support local businesses. Without these local businesses, what kind of a neighborhood would we live in? It wouldn’t be very interesting.

  24. I agree — I think it was the location. The Mad Valley location was much great and had decent on-street parking. The Wallingford Center location was hidden away inside the building. If Top Ten can make it work, then maybe it’s just about location.

  25. I’ved tried to go in there shopping on several occasions. I live across the street and vehemently support our dwindling neighborhood retailers. I’ve NEVER had a good experience here. Gift Cards? “oohh… yeah… we’re all out… I can tape something into a greeting card…oh, we’re low on cards..uhhhh yeeeahh… can you come back on Tuesday? that’s when the manager will be here… yeeeaaahh.”

    In another instance I stood in line for 20 minutes to buy one little book while I painfully watched the shop keeper try and wrap a present.

    And finally, in gerenal, I’ve found their selection dwindling: One time I asked, and it was blamed on thunderstorms back on the East coast. what? Another time I requested a book title, and the owner just went on a rant about Elliot Bay Books killing their business.

    Clearly there’s a difference between being a shopkeeper and a good shopkeeper. I don’t think they ever got their act together.

  26. One of the reasons the business fail is the customer service. There are many locally own business that survive despite the economy, the key factor is good customer service beyond good pricing.

  27. I couldn’t agree more and it’s really why I’ve stopped shopping in real stores. Customer service isn’t the top priority anymore. Now it’s sales and if you don’t look immediately like you’re flashing cash, then the sales staff could care less. I shopped a lot at Nordstrom in 2005-2007, but then suddenly, when I started not wanting to get seriously dressed up every time, I would get really bad service. Like being treated as though I would steal or I couldn’t possibly afford any of the items they had or just being flat out ignored when I’m holding stuff to buy. I went into Izilla once at its downstairs location and I will say that the location… was pretty bad. Yeah, you could have your kids hidden downstairs, but that area really is awful for parking and more set-up for people who are going to party, not for parents to bring their children to. While they are located next to a Ferrari/Maserati dealer and Boom Noodle as someone else pointed out, neither of those places cater to children and if you’re going into the former, likeliness is you don’t have kids (how many Maseratis have you seen with a car seat?). That area is not exactly notorious for strollers.

    I know lots of local places want to blame the evil online stores, but here’s something they’re doing that you’re not: they went online and you could too even if it’s a headache. They decided to reach out to a larger customer base than was immediately available in their area. They decided to become part of social networks and try to communicate with their fans on a greater level. It’s sucks that that’s the way things have gone, but it has forced the hand of good customer service. You can’t be a dick online to your customers like you can in-store and just assume that they’ll just not come back. Bad customer service travels. As I used to hear in the restaurant biz, if a person has a good experience, they’ll tell two people. If they have a bad experience, they’ll tell 11. Well, now that it’s online, they’ll tell everyone on their friend list that they got horrible service. Stores should take that into account (particularly in Seattle where there is a holier-than-thou vibe). And honestly, a lot of businesses have figured it out and now operate both standing stores and online, so… I don’t know. I’m sorry that Izilla closed.

  28. As a recently former New Yorker, you can’t tell me that little shops can’t survive because of the “age” nor because of the internet. Those reasonings might be true in many Californicated suburbias, but Big cities make Little shops thrive.
    The difference, to a large extent, is the walkability. Not to say 12th Ave and Pike/Pine aren’t walkable urban villages… but they aren’t filled with the target customers, and they are both Destination neighborhoods, NOT true crossroads. What would bring target customers of all walks/ages? A subway stop (transfer station namely) anywhere within 4 blocks. Business/employers/office towers within that 4 blocks wouldn’t hurt either.
    If seattle doesn’t connect a web of streetcar/subway/light rail connections through the city, the little guy stores are ONLY going to thrive if they are sited precisely on the their target market demographic (THIS is the reason Top Ten can survive, as well as gary’s games, the comic book shop, the space travel agency — at least until the current crop of families (or grandparents) grow up/move away).
    Otherwise, online stores (and box stores with huge parking lots) will increasingly become the only viable capitalist venture.

    and Yes, blah blah Metro blah transit blah: the 11 (and 12 and 2) do not a connected city make. Madison Ok, 19th on CapitolHill, or Madrona to downtown? Just No.

    IMO Izilla was incredibly poorly located (arguably ahead of its time, but time will tell): what is otherwise a pubcrawl/evening-out-with-your-date corner, with occasional bluecollar visits for plumbing and hardware – the corner doesn’t have a single young-family-friendly vibe, so the bulk of their clientele was either aunts/uncles getting an occasional present, or diehard fans that followed them from their prior locales. They had maybe a 1 to 10% chance to pick up new toy sales from immediate neighbors. And I’m betting the rent/operating costs were increased more than that percentage in that location.

  29. As far as why many people shop on the internet vs a local store, I think one factor is just plain ol’ laziness. A few clicks and you’re done, and no sales tax or shipping charge!

    It really takes very little effort to patronize local businesses, and doing so is alot better for our neighborhood. Just do it!