Small Retailers in Denton Say Success Means Being Different

When Toys R Us announced it would close more than 800 stores due to financial difficulties, it marked the latest chapter in the struggles of many retailers to keep up in the age of internet retail.

It's a climate that has forced mom-and-pop retailers to adapt, too.

The secret to success, say some local shops, is you have to roll with the punches.

Recycled Books has been a Denton staple for 35 years. When Don Foster opened the store, he had no idea how big it the store would become.

"People will come in and spend hours in here," Foster said. "Occasionally, someone will come in and spend all day in here."

Not that it's always been easy.

"It can get tight sometimes," he said.

Competition from large retailers can drive a small business out of business. To survive, Foster says, you have to offer the customer something different. Aside from used books, he sells a lot of records and compact discs — things many big-box retailers have abandoned. He's also embraced the internet age.

"We do a lot of online sales, which has been a savior to us," Foster said.

For other small retailers, carving out a niche is also the key to success.

"We don't do anything current generation, because big-box stores like Toys R Us control that market," said Alec Featherstone, who opened Freaks and Geeks, a vintage game and toy store in Denton, three years ago.

Featherstone called the Toys R Us situation "tragic." He believes his shop may pick up a few more customers with the chain's closing, but it's not going to change the way he does business.

"To be successful you have to be driven," he said. "You have to realize there's gonna be those bumps in the road."

Both business owners do sell items online, adding to their revenue. Both also say they have an advantage in that their businesses are more than just stores — they're places where customers can come in and just hang out.

Foster says stores like his can stand up to online competition, because a lot of people still just like to shop the old-fashioned way.

"It'll be right there in front of you," he said. "And you'll go, 'Oh, my. Maybe I need this.'"

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