Steve Rotker, a New Rochelle resident, got his start in the toy business sweeping floors and stocking shelves for his father Marty Rotker who, with a partner, opened the first Big Top store in Eastchester 60 years ago. His recent decision to close the last remaining Big Top owned by the Rotker family was not easy. Three years ago, with his lease up at the Wykagyl Shopping area, Rotker made one last go of it at the new but smaller location at the Quaker Ridge Shopping Mall but the store was never the same.
"The new store was half the size and was never really quite the same store," Rokter told Talk of the Sound whistfully. "At the old store a mother could look through magazines while her kids went up and down the aisles looking at toys, we had racks and racks of greeting cards, at the new store there was just no room for that."
Rotker will still own stores and still sell toys but not in New Rochelle. The Big Top store will be closed on December 31st and merged with Rotker's Family Discount Center store at 112 South Ridge Street in Rye Brook. Family Discount Centerwas rated the Best Discount Toy Store in Westchester for 2005 and an "Editor's Pick" that year.
Although this store carries everything imaginable from hardware to stationery, be sure to check out the children’s section, where you can find toys from Fisher Price, Playskool, and clothing from Carter and Speedo. And prepare yourself for jaw-dropping discounts; the store name makes good on its promises.
There will still be a Big Top in the area, over in Scarsdale at Five Points. Rotker sold that store several years ago.
For many a trip to another store will be bittersweet no matter how good the selection or the deals.
"This store is an institution", said one Mom, a self-described long-time loyal customer. "You remember?" she said, looking at her teen age son. "You remember how we came here." She said she will be sorry to see the store close.
"The community will miss the store very much" said Stuart, who has worked the counter at the store for 13 years. "I know the decision was not lightly made". Stuart, who declined to give his last name, will be moving on to work at Toy Box in Mamaroneck. As the face of Big Top for many residents, he is likely to take more than a few customers with him.
For his part, Rotker is determined to leave New Rochelle as he came -- on good terms with the community and with mutual respect. All outstanding gift certificates will be honored at the New Rochelle store until the end of the year and can then be redeemed at the Family Discount Center is Rye Brook.
"If anyone has a problem with getting up to the Rye Brook store or has a broken or defective item from the New Rochelle store they only need to contact me at Family Discount Center and we will make it right with them," said Rotker. The phone number for the Family Discount Store (also an Ace Hardware Store) is 914-939-4321.