It truly is the end of an era. Toys ‘R’ Us founder Charles P. Lazarus has died at 94, the company and his family have confirmed. The news comes just a week after the beloved toy chain announced it will shut down its stores across the United States.
The company tweeted on Thursday: “There have been many sad moments for Toys ‘R’ Us in recent weeks, and none more heartbreaking than today's news about the passing of our beloved founder, Charles Lazarus. Our thoughts and prayers are with Charles' family and loved ones.”
News of Lazarus’ death also came the same day as company executives began their massive liquidation sale, as they attempt to sell off their respective inventories. The New York Times reports that Manhattan-based Lazarus died of respiratory failure at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.
Toys ‘R’ Us had filed for bankruptcy back in September, before news broke last week that it would be going out of business for good and shuttering its various branches worldwide, ending over 30,000 jobs in America alone, which contains 800 stores.
Amazon and mobile games have been blamed for the downfall of the legendary toy giant, which had been struggling in recent years to compete with the online marketplace.
Lazarus was a World War II veteran who founded Toys ‘R’ Us six decades ago. The company first began life as a children’s furniture store in 1948, before shifting its focus to selling toys in the first incarnation of the store in 1957 – the styling of the backward ‘R’ was said to give the impression that it was written by a child.
As well as the 800 locations throughout the United States, the company also opened around 800 branches in Africa, Asia, and Europe. Establishing its headquarters in Wayne, New Jersey, Toys ‘R’ Us introduced its famous mascot, Geoffrey the Giraffe, in 1969. The brand also expanded to include Babies ‘R’ Us and Kids ‘R’ Us, the latter of which failed in 2003.
Lazarus stepped down as chief executive of Toys ‘R’ Us in 1994.
If you have any fond memories of buying toys of any kind from the store (including your first action figure), please share them with us in the comment section below, and maybe give a little thank you to Lazarus for stocking that shelf in the first place.