Joy Leavitt grew up in New York, was an original hippy playing guitar in Washington Square (no one listened), was a dreamer and an optimist (still is) and always loved children! She started at Syracuse University and graduated from Simmons College with a B.A. in preschool and elementary education. After college she taught elementary and preschool, ran day camps for 3-5 year olds and taught music to young children.
In addition she raised two children, Jared and Kara, with her husband Michael. “Our house was like Sesame Street…..our backyard was an adventure center…..and I always wondered how and why houses with children needed to be neat and orderly.” She had no idea she was an entrepreneur, she just decided to start a company that had good, educational, wholesome toys for her own children. “We did not have a neighborhood toy store and, believe it or not, there was no Internet, no Web sites, just a couple of catalogs that would come our way now and then and they were boring!”
Joy created Kiddly Winks in 1981 with a friend as a toy party business and opened a 750 sq.ft store in 1985. Her partner decided to go back to teaching after their first year in full retail and they remain dear friends to this day.
Joy continued on with the business and, by 1996, she needed her husband to help run the financial side of the company and he joined the team. Michael thought joining Kiddly Winks was a temporary gig, but 13 years later he’s still there. Most customers never see Michael because they don’t let him out of the back office very often!
In addition to managing the front end of the business, searching for the best toys and working with customers Joy was a founding member and active on the board of directors for ASTRA (American Specialty Toy Retailing Association).
Kiddly Winks currently has two large retail stores in Canton, Connecticut and Longmeadow, Massachusetts and an ecommerce Web site. “We celebrate childhood every day and believe investing time and energy in children and parents is really worth it! ‘My head is full of children,’ is truly my tagline for my adult life …I wake up and lie down thinking about children, toys, products, books, issues, our toy stores, and how to keep children healthy, safe, happy, and stimulated.”
“I am a mono-maniac about childhood. Allowing children to have their childhoods, providing toys for creative, imaginative and healthy play is my mantra. My background and my passion for good toys allows me to purvey, reflect and critique the best-of-the-best in the world of toys. We spend endless hours doing this so we can offer the best toys, books, and products to make life better and easier for families”