It appears that one of the Upper East Side’s beloved toy stores has closed. Moms of the Upper East Side reported on Instagram earlier this week that HomBom Toys would be closing its location at 1500 First Avenue (between 78th and 79th streets) on December 30. Though the store has not made an official announcement on its Facebook page or Instagram account, the website is not operational and calls to the store’s phone number indicate it is no longer in service.
HomBom Toys is a small, family business that started in the 1980s, according to Tribeca Citizen.
Ilene Gayer and her daughters Melissa and Alison took it over around 2005 after a cousin held the business down for the previous 20 years. In fact, it was the cousin’s daughter’s first words that gave the store its name.
Called “one of the best toy stores in NYC” in 2008 by Zagat, the business grew to four locations across Manhattan: two on the Upper East Side, one on the Upper West Side, and the fourth in Tribeca. But by February 2015, the Upper West location at 412 Columbus Avenue closed after five years. The spot at 345 Greenwich followed suit three months later. By 2018, only the location at 1500 First Avenue was left after the others were “priced out of their spots.”
As major retailers like Toys ‘R’ Us folded, HomBom managed to remain in demand. “People like to see the personal touch,” Gayer told NY City Lens in 2018. “I don’t want to compete with Amazon. We’re unique.”
NY City Lens noted that some sought out HomBom for this very reason. “One lady came all the way from Chelsea to purchase a certain kind of stuffed dog. A little girl toured the store to make her birthday wish list.”
But Gayer sensed trouble this past summer because of the global shipping backlog. “I’m having a nervous breakdown from this. I’m not getting merchandise in. I’m not getting anything.” The trouble did not end there. “The companies are now telling us that when you do get our new shipments in, the prices are going to be astronomical. We don’t even know the percentage yet. It could be 10, 20, 30% higher.”
Whether Gayer’s concerns are what led to the store’s closing is unknown at this time. We were unable to reach HomBom for comment but will keep you posted if we receive any news about its future.