Oliver's Toy Chest is spreading joy with Toys.
The holiday season is around the corner, which means that countless shoppers are plotting their strategies for getting deals and steals on the hottest toys on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. But for those on the hunt for exclusive, hard-to-find vintage toys and collectibles, Oliver’s Toy Chest on Main Street in Hamilton is the place to be.
David Robbins and Samantha Schmidt, the owners of Oliver’s Toy Chest, buy and sell memorabilia that surprise and delight customers, especially those born before the 21st century.
"We strive for making the store an experience,” Samantha stated. The Oliver’s Toy Chest displays and inventory change frequently, from the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” to “The Walking Dead, “Gremlins” to Funko Pops, “Nightmare on Elm Street” to “Bob’s Burgers.” Although David and Samantha handle the day-to-day business responsibilities, it was their son, Oliver Robbins, who inspired them to open the brick-and-mortar store in Hamilton.
Oliver’s Toy Chest opened in May 2022, on the day that would have been Oliver’s 11th birthday. David and Samantha take great care to ensure that their customers know the namesake of the store. Online orders from Oliver’s Toy Chest are shipped with a printed card displaying a photo of Oliver and his family, with the following message emblazoned across it:
"Our lives forever changed when our 10-year-old son, Oliver, was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia in November 2020. Oliver received treatment over the following year, including a bone marrow transplant. He suffered many complications and devastatingly passed away in October 2021. We have started Oliver's Toy Chest in memory of Oliver's love for toys. Oliver began collecting toys through his treatment and it quickly turned into his favorite hobby. With a personality as big as the world, he loved a little bit of everything. He specifically loved vintage, '90s, and horror-themed toys and collectibles. His knowledge was vast and he knew a good deal when he saw one. This is something very special that we did together and we will continue to do for our sweet boy."
The walls of Oliver’s Toy Chest are adorned with hand-painted illustrations. Slimer from “Ghostbusters,” Pennywise from “It,” and a mural of Oliver look over the store. Just behind the checkout desk is a framed photo of Oliver with Robert Englund, the actor known for his role as Freddy Krueger in "Nightmare on Elm Street.” The photo was taken at the 2021 HorrorHound Weekend in Cincinnati, 29 days before Oliver passed away. Oliver was able to attend HorrorHound with his family on a four-hour pass, allowing him to leave the ICU at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital with special permission granted by his doctor. At the event, Oliver was treated like a celebrity.
“They took him in like a V.I.P.,” Samantha exclaimed.
Oliver first became interested in horror movies around age six. He and his father, David, would watch movies like "Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Child's Play" together. But the scary scenes and music didn't faze Oliver.
"Oliver really got into horror movies during treatment,” Samantha explained. “They went from being an interest to an obsession."
Oliver was equally, if not more, obsessed with visiting local toy stores. He would seek out rare, one-of-a-kind finds, which helped him to develop a baseline for determining value and prices. It didn’t take long for toy-collecting to become a lifestyle for Oliver and his family.
“eBay selling started as Oliver’s passion,” David said. Selling toys and collectibles on eBay was an activity that Oliver could do regardless of where he was, whether it was at home or in a hospital bed at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
"Oliver was very money-motivated," David laughed. "He would get on eBay and always wanted to flip something.” Gremlins were Oliver’s favorite toys to collect and “Terminator 2” was one of his all-time favorite movies.
"Terminator 2 was the last movie we watched,” David recounted. "Oliver wanted to be John Connor and play video games." David continued, “Now, when we pick toys for our collection or to sell in the store, we think 'What would Oliver like?'"
Oliver's Toy Chest wrapped up a month-long toy drive at the end of September. With help from supporters and community neighbors like Pinball Garage, the store received boxes of toys to donate to patients on the Oncology/Hematology and Bone Marrow Transplant floors at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Money donated to the toy drive will be used to purchase and donate additional toys.
“For me, it’s giving back to the community,” Samantha said. “We have received a lot of community support.”
Oliver’s Toy Chest continues to grow its customer base through word-of-mouth advertising and social media engagement. Each week, David and Samantha publish a “Free Toy Friday” post on the store’s Facebook page, rewarding lucky followers with a free item from the store.
May 2023 will be the one-year milestone for Oliver’s Toy Chest, an event that is undoubtedly going to be commemorated.
"During treatment, everything was a celebration,” Samantha stated. "I'm sure we'll do something cute."