Boro Park Snapshot: Linick’s Toys
Toys are somewhere between wine and lumber in store purchases in the typical Jewish household. Toys for the einiklach before Rosh Hashana, for the extended family on Chanuka, for afikomon gifts on Pesach, for birthdays, for bubbies. Toys are as integral to Jewish life as aluminum foil before Pesach and two-by-fours before Sukkos.
Boro Park may be about 120 years old, but for two thirds of that time, Linick’s was providing its residents with Cabbage Patch dolls, Hello Kitty knapsacks, Monopoly and chess games along with sporting goods and school supplies. It’s 80 years at the same location, at 4811 13th Ave., is an extraordinary longevity — four lifetimes in Boro Park time.
The current owner, Kopie Botknecht, is the fourth during that time, he told boropark24.com’s Heshy Rubinstein in an interview, having taken it over from his father, Feivel.
Feivel Botknecht originally had a ladies’ sportswear store further down on 13th Ave., where Lane Gift Shop is now located. But when Linick’s went up for sale, he snapped it up.
“He was never comfortable in the ladies’ garment industry,” Mr. Botknecht said, “and he thought that this was a very nice switch. It was catered to kids, and it was like a happy kind of feeling.”
The previous owner, a secular Jew named Silverman, had purchased it from the original Mr. Linick, who established it on New Utrecht Ave. as a candy and cigar shop. He was forced in the 1910s to move when the elevated railroad was built and relocated to its current place. He gradually added toys to his mix of wares in the 1930s. Mr. Botknecht still remembers seeing a rifle in the store’s window many years ago.
Linick sold it to Silverman, a fixture in the Boro Park of old, in 1955, and the Botknechts purchased it in 1979. Mrs. Botknecht, Feivel’s mother, was a regular behind the counter for many years. Feivel’s brother, Reb Eli Botknecht z”l, a co-owner, was niftar from the coronavirus three months ago.
Being the oldest toy store in Boro Park is not enough to drive customers your way, as the array of mom and pop stores that used to line the neighborhood’s avenues can attest. Linick’s relies on its unique brand as an image of sturdiness and stability, carrying the toys you grew up with.
“The thing that we are different that the other toys stores is that we kept the brand name, we didn’t jump to everything that’s new,” Mr. Botknecht said. “If we get a Magna-Tile, for example, we’ll carry the original Magna-Tile. We carry real Fisher Price, real Lego, we didn’t veer off and do imports. We’re probably just about the only store in Boro Park and Flatbush that sells baseball gloves, basketballs, soccer balls, hockey sticks — all brand names.”
“Is that a good idea? I don’t know,” he added. “But we didn’t see any losses so we must be doing the right thing.”
A giant toy horse exhibited in the store dates back to 1969. It’s price label, handwritten and stuck on, is even attached — a cool $3.69.
Mr. Botknecht, a talmid of Telshe in Cleveland, learned in kollel for several years after his marriage before heading into the real estate world. He wanted to open his own toy store and approached his rosh yeshiva, Rav Pesach Stein zt”l, for advice.
Rav Stein asked him if the toy industry had any anxieties to be concerned about.
“Daagos?” questioned Mr. Botknecht. “The worst daagah is if a child buys a toy and the toy doesn’t work and you have to change the battery. It’s not like in real estate, where if someone’s apartment has leaks.”
Rav Stein responded that if parnassa has daagos than he wouldn’t be able to learn.
“It’s nice to see,” Mr. Botknecht said, “the way kids come in to pick out a toy and they go over their decisions 100 times. But 99 percent of the time they go out smiling and happy. It’s a good feel.”
Mr. Botknecht’s own five children and many grandchildren are excited that zeidy has a toy store.
“The einiklach know to come,” he said with a laugh.
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