Kate Tanner owner of KidStop Toys & Books

Kate Tanner is the owner of KidStop Toys & Books, a toy store in southern Scottsdale celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

Toys, kids, dogs and chocolate: This is KidStop Toys & Books’ recipe for success.

And it’s working out for the southern Scottsdale-based toy store started by owner Kate Tanner’s, on her dining room table.

Not only is KidStop the last standing toy store in the Valley, but it’s also celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

“In 20 years, I have inputted over 138,000 different skews,” said owner Kate Tanner. “[The anniversary] doesn’t feel like a milestone; we have fun every day.”

To celebrate, KidStop will host its popular Official Toy Tester Event on Oct. 19. 

“With the holidays coming up, it’s prime time for making those wish lists and this is a great way for kids to test out the toys to ensure it’s a must-have,” Tanner said.

The entire parking lot in front of the store will turn into an obstacle course of demo areas for kids – ages toddler to teen – to test out toys and vote for their favorite of the year. 

“When they’re done playing, they vote, and our manufacturers eagerly await to hear who wins,” Tanner said. “When I got home that night, I was counting ballots and saw how some of the chicken scratch is adorable. To see the way they spell things, it’s too cute.”

The event is free, but KidStop will set up 20 toy drive boxes for guests to donate a toy for local nonprofit Arizona Helping Hands.

KidStop will match the value of every toy donated in addition to donating proceeds from the sale of $1 water bottles to the nonprofit’s Birthday Dreams program.

“Arizona Helping Hands is honored to be the beneficiary of KidStop’s Official Toy Tester Event,” said Dan Shufelt, president and CEO of Arizona Helping Hands.

In the past, KidStop donated toys to support  Birthday Dreams, which provides personalized birthday packages to foster kids.

“We assist 300 children each and every month with their own gift package. With such huge demand, we rely greatly on the assistance of caring companies like KidStop,” Shufelt said.

KidStop has also supported the nonprofit’s Holiday Toy Drive, which provided toys to 17,000 children last year.

“Kate Tanner is an important friend of Arizona Helping Hands and lends her expertise and professional connections to assist our team in locating the best purchasing options to fill gaps not met by product donations,” Shufelt said.

 “Arizona Helping Hands appreciates you caring for the 14,000 children in foster care!”

KidStop hosted the Toy Tester Event for eight years, with its best year attracting about 3,000 people.

But, two years ago, Tanner said they had to stop hosting the event due to complaints from neighboring businesses about lack of parking.

“I asked my staff a couple months ago, ‘How should we celebrate?’ And [KidStop assistant] Chris looked at me and he said, ‘Oh, you’re not going to like my answer, but I think we need to do another toy tester,’” Tanner said.

Tanner called their landlord, who agreed to do it one more time. 

“They would take the heat for anybody who didn’t like us taking up all their parking spots because a lot of people come. It’s fun,” Tanner said.

Some of the toys featured for testing include American Ninja Warrior Ninjaline, EZyRollers, EZyRoller Basketball, Marky Sparky’s Faux Bow Pro and Faux Bow 130, Birdie Golf, Carpool Karaoke, Clack!, Cosmic Glow Mini Golf, DeJaVu, Doinkit Darts, Fire Station, Grand Central Station, Hape Pop-Up Shop, Knuckleheads, Marble Racers, Pop & Pass, Puzzle Cubes, Scooters, and Viking Castle.

“Them knowing that the possibility of them getting that toy, I think it reinforces the magic because they fell in love with it,” Tanner said. “They talk about it and all of a sudden it’s under the tree.” 

Tanner said the toys at KidStop are “on the cutting edge.”

“They won’t see [the toys at the event] again because it’s not in the aisle at Target,” she said. “Where else can you go and see your kids walk into a store and play and know that that $100 toy is going to be worth every penny you spent? You don’t know that on Amazon.”

And that’s the benefit of this event for parents: to be the first to discover and purchase certain toys. 

“When you have children, you want to be the cool parent. Amazon doesn’t make you a cool parent,” Tanner said.

KidStop also matches Amazon’s prices. 

“I have no doubt that if Amazon wasn’t here, this business would be tripled what it is today, but we stay competitive,” Tanner said, adding they also provide gift wrapping services for free, which Amazon does not.

Tanner attributes KidStop’s success to her and her employees’ overall love for the job.

“When you love what you do, I think you genuinely come through to your customer and we really do care,” she said.

In addition to the event, KidStop is celebrating its 20-year anniversary with an Instagram contest where two families can each win more than $200 in prizes. 

To enter, families must post an image of their kids with their favorite KidStop-purchased toy to Instagram with the hashtag #ToyTester2019.

Additionally, to qualify, families must be following @kidstoptoys on Instagram, RSVP to the KidStop Toy Tester 2019 event on Facebook, invite three friends to the Facebook event page and must be in attendance at KidStop’s Official Toy Tester event. 

The two entries with the most likes will win. The contest is live and ends on Oct. 17.