Happy Birthday to Boomerang Toys

When I was doing the rounds for the Shop-Local Gift Guide, Karen Barwick, the owner of Boomerang Toys, happened to mention that this was their 20th anniversary year! So in addition to wishing her and her staff a very happy birthday, I thought it was a perfect time to revisit her Spotlight feature from 2016, with a few updates at the top. She and her family have lived in Battery Park City since 1999, after moving from the West Village. “It was such an amazing place to raise our kids (and dogs).”

I know the pandemic sucked. What did you learn about the neighborhood and retail?
One thing I learned about the residents of Tribeca was how generous they could be. We ran a toy drive for kids in homeless shelters when we were shuttered for several months, and the generosity of the residents of downtown was terrific.

I also learned how hard my fellow small business owners work and how dedicated to the Lower Manhattan community they are. All of the businesses and restaurants around us fought really hard, stayed here and worked, even when there was no one around. I am so glad that so many of us made it through and are still here.

Is there something you’ve always wanted to do and never got to in 20 years?
I feel like, as a family, we have really immersed ourselves in NYC and especially Lower Manhattan. I can’t think of a Tribeca restaurant we haven’t tried, a sports league or class my kids didn’t participate in, a tourist attraction we haven’t seen. My son bartends on the Circle Line and we haven’t done the 4th of July Fireworks cruise, so that’s on our list.

What’s next for Boomerang?
To hopefully continue on in our current home for many years to come.

The photographs from the original “Spotlight” series are all by photographer and Downtown resident Claudine Williams

How did you get started in this business?
When 9/11 happened, I was working at a record company, and I had a baby and a four-year-old. The record company went out of business, and I got laid off. I had a lot of vacation and holiday time, and I was nervous after 9/11 and my kids and I didn’t want go back to corporate work. We live in Battery Park City, and one weekend one of my kid’s friends was having a birthday party. I went to the Toys”R”Us that used to be at Union Square to get a gift. At the party, a few of the moms said they had seen me there—we all had gone there! I woke up the next morning and realized I should open a toy store down here. We opened at W. Broadway and Worth in November of 2002, then we moved to this space in May of 2009.

boomerang-toys-by-claudine-williamsAnd the Battery Park City store?
We opened a second store at the World Financial Center in 2006, but they kicked us out in 2011 when they decided to remodel. We opened a store in the New York Mercantile Exchange in 2012, but that location was too tough.

What is Boomerang Toys known for?
I like to think it’s our customer service. My managers and I hand-pick every toy. Customers know that if it’s here, it’s here for a reason. Most ask for advice, and they like that they don’t have to do the research themselves. And of course we gift wrap!

Where did the name come from?
My four-year-old was really into superheroes. He was the Blue Boomerang, and his brother was Shield Boomerang. He’ll kill me if you mention that! He wanted the store to be called Boomerang Brothers, but we shortened it. We probably should’ve gone with Boomerang Brothers, because everyone thinks we sell boomerangs.

boomerang-toys-interior-by-claudine-williamsWhat’s the most satisfying part of what you do?
Watching the kids grow up. Kids that were three or four when we opened are now in college. Sometimes their parents still come in, which is nice to see. Also, we support local teams, and I love walking by the ball fields and seeing the store’s name on the jerseys.

It must be nice for older kids, knowing that their toy store is still here.
We recently had a woman come in—she asked if I recognized her, and I did. I’m good with faces and names. Her daughter, who’s now in college, needed puppets for a project, and she remembered that we have them. When she asked her mom if Boomerang Toys is still open, the mom was very touched that she remembered it.

Most popular item?
The bestseller for the last 14 years has been Magna-Tiles, clear plastic with magnets for free building, so you use your imagination. Kids start playing with them around three years old, but they still come in for them as old as nine and ten. Micro Scooters are popular, too.

magna-tiles-at-boomerang-toys-by-claudine-williamsMost expensive?
Probably the Xootr, a scooter for adults. It’s $289.

I always thought adults were riding their kids’ scooters home from dropping their kids off at school.

Huh. Least expensive item?
Silly Putty. No, Wikki Stix for 75¢. They’re pieces of yarn coated with wax, so you can mold them into creations. We sell a lot as party favors, or parents buy them on their way to dinner because they need a distraction for their kids.

Your very favorite item right now? In other words, what do you play with when no one’s around?
Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty! It comes in all different colors and shapes.

It looks like it might be good for stress relief.
Definitely. We also sell it to physical and occupational therapists.

crazy-aarons-putty-at-boomerang-toys-by-claudine-williamsWhere do you source stuff?
Initially, I had never worked in retail, and never with toys. So I went into my kids’ closets to see what they loved, and I started contacting the manufacturers. Now, I meet with toy reps a few times a month. And there are toy shows—the big one at the Javits Center in the winter, and I went to Denver in June. There’s a German toy show I’ve been to. And customers come in and ask for things.

I imagine trends bubble up unexpectedly.
They do. We’re 90% tried and true and 10% trends. You want to have what people want, but trends come and go so fast. Kids are the ones who really know what’s coming up next. There’s a TV show, “PAW Patrol”—my kids are older now, so I had no idea about it.

Tribeca has obviously changed a lot. Any changes that have surprised you?
The influx of big chain stores. There have always been great restaurants around here, but there don’t seem to be as many shops where you can shop for goods. I used to love Working Class on Duane. And Pookie & Sebastian, though it wasn’t here for long. Now we have Bed Bath & Beyond and those stores.

How has your business changed?
We’ve had to adapt to the Internet. It’s hard for retail. When we opened, we sold no mass market toys—no Disney Princess, no Hot Wheels. We’ve added that over time, so now we’re 70% specialty, 30% mass market. We can’t compete with the Internet if we’re just mass market.

What percentage of your business is local?
I’d say 65% residential, 25% workers, and 15% tourists.

scooters-at-boomerang-toys-by-claudine-williamsTell me a crazy customer story.
I’m not big on sharing celebrity stories—we do as much as possible to respect their privacy—but this one is kind of funny. When his son was a little younger, Harvey Keitel was a semi-regular customer. One day he came in and inquired about a certain toy. I was working alone in the store at the time, and I told him I’d have to look it up online. Next thing I know, he’s behind the counter with me. After a few minutes, he was still looking on the computer and I had some work to do, so I left him to it and went in the back of the store for a second. A customer came in and asked Harvey about the tricycles we were selling. He listened to her, then asked her to wait until someone could help her, at which time he called for me. She and I went to the front of the store, and I launched into this whole spiel about the tricycle, when I realize she wasn’t listening to me at all. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I can’t focus on what you’re saying. Does Harvey Keitel work here?”

Where do you eat/drink/shop around here?
My favorite place in the whole wide world is Terra, I just love it. [Terra closed this past October.] I love Edward’s, too. The pasta with string beans and chicken is my favorite. So garlicky. The last two months I’ve gone to the new Pret on Chambers every day. I’m sure I’ll hit a wall.

You will.
Frankly Wines for wine. I’m not really a coffee person, but the staff loves Laughing Man. But honestly, I eat everywhere. Sarabeth’s, Gigino….

What does the future hold?
We’d like to stay here! We want to be a member of this community as long as possible. I raised my kids here: They went to local schools and played on local teams. We’re really immersed in the community, and I like that.

Previously in this series:
••• Antiqueria Tribeca
••• Real Pilates
••• Church Street School for Music and Art
••• Kings Pharmacy
••• Church Street Surplus
••• New York Nautical
••• Lance Lappin Salon
••• Joseph Carini Carpets
••• Donzella
••• A Uno
••• Balloon Saloon
••• Fountain Pen Hospital
••• Abhaya
••• Chambers Pottery
••• Square Diner
••• Langdon Florist
••• Tribeca Upholstery & Draperies
••• Double Knot
••• Philip Williams Posters



  1. Thanks to the arrival of my first grandchild I finally got to visit and buy something at Boomerang, a store I long admired but never entered (daughter was in grad school). The toys are incredible and I’m not surprised they are handpicked. The toy I bought, a farmer pulling a colorful wagon filled with different animals, all removable, all making individual sounds when inserted turns out to be his favorite! He carries the little sheep everywhere.

  2. Boomerang is the best and is owned by the best! Our childrens lives were all touched in one way or another by Boomerang and we hope they are there for decades to come! 💙