After 60 Years as Westchester's Toy Store, Big Top Coming Down For Good in New Rochelle

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After 60 Years as Westchester's Toy Store, Big Top Coming Down For Good in New Rochelle

December 19, 2010 - 03:11

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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.

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There are 11 Comments

Some of my earliest memories of living in this town involve taking the walk down to Wykagyl on a mission to retrieve candy from the Big Top.

So long to a New Rochelle institution for the entirety of my life & beyond

While I resided in the south end of the city as a child Big Top was Merry Go Round's big time competitor. I would ride my bike there weekly to see who had the best buy for my $1 allowance. When I was 10, everyone had a Flexible Flyer sled but Big Top sold Yankee Clipper sleds. The Yankee Clipper was a bit smaller but much faster so I bought it and ruled the runs at Feeney Park and Pelham Manor Golf Course. You have to be over 50 to understand this post but I feel sorry for those who didn't experience New Rochelle in her heyday which earned her the moniker Queen City. Sad to see Big Top go but thanks for the memories!

It was bound to come and since the store moved there was a little something missing but no matter, I just want to say thank you and let Big Top know it will be missed.

As a child that store was the 11th hour birthday party savior. Countless times you went in bought a gift and were shuttled to the party. With a young son heading in to birthday party season what do i do? Now I have to plan ahead!

Well, at least we discoivered the Merry Go Round on North Ave a few years back so we do have a back up plan. Some one mentioned childhood memories and that is why this a bit sad. I'll tell you, I will ride my bicycle to the Merry Go Round so I do not have to worry about parking.

Big Top was synonymous with Wykagyl. As was Poultry Time, and Friendly's. To lose this store is nearly tragic, especially considering that toy stores like Big Top and Merry Go Round are so hard to come by in this day and age.

I was a "Merry Go Rounder" myself growing up in the South End, Big Top came about later in life. Very sad to see you go, as New Rochelle loses another institution. Perhaps the writing was on the wall when Poultry Time closed it's doors.

At least the City of New Rochelle is consistent. Stores are closing up in the North End as well as the South End! As I recall, Big Top moved out of Wykagyl to make way for a Staples. Now, an empty building sits in that lot and no one knows who is moving in. It was supposed to be occupied in September! It's becoming the North End's version of New Roc City.

By the way to "Timknows", I can't imagine you taking that bump on the bottom of the hill at Pelham CC (5th Hole, I believe) on your sled. That had to have hurt. Far better using a Toboggan! Forever young . . . Cheers!

Good mention. I am a PT alum working behind the counter for a summer. Back in the day when we had to add everything up on the brown bag with a pencil.

Poultry Time closing is a bummer when you have that fried chicken jones. Stop and Shop just aint cuttin it with the fried chicken.

Talk about institutions I still miss the Yellow Sub.

Yellow Sub! What memories! Miss that also. IONA bought that whole strip of stores and "poof!".. YS gone after 30 years! Sad.

Thanks or the link. It seems I am just one of many who miss it. This feeling is just not nostalgia Yellow Sub was darn GOOD. Id still be eating there

Agreed! Me too!

well , sorry for that but nothing goes for ever specially in these hard times we are facing.wish you the best my fiend.
Merry Christmas and happy new year.