Chris Kilbane Sells ‘New Canaan Toy Store’ After 22 Years

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New Canaan’s Chris Kilbane had been working in New York City for about 12 years, creating pharmaceutical products, when he spoke one afternoon to the owner of New Canaan Toy Store while shopping there with his son Ryan, about five years old at the time.

Chris Kilbane at New Canaan Toy Store. Credit: Michael Dinan

Innocently, Kilbane asked the owner if she’d ever consider selling the place. She responded that in fact she had, that Kilbane seemed like a nice guy and they should talk.

A week later, he owned the place.

That was 22 years ago.

In the decades since, Ryan and his little brother Connor went through South School, Saxe Middle School and New Canaan High School (they’re 27 and 24 now), and a whole generation of local kids have grown up with toys from the iconic Park Street shop, widely identified as the oldest continually operating toy store in New England.

The Kilbanes—Connor, Chris, Janet and Ryan—outside New Canaan Toy Store. Contributed

On Friday, Kilbane sold the business to an area couple and longtime friends that have vowed to keep it going—a measure of comfort in what he described as a “bittersweet” moment.

“From a personal standpoint, this is a great job,” Kilbane said Tuesday during his final shift at New Canaan Toy Store. “It’s a lot of fun. You laugh. If you can laugh hard every day at some point during your day when you are working, I would say it’s a good day. And every day here, I’ve had laughter pretty much throughout the day, whether that’s employees or customers or kids. It’s a really special place and in that regard. It’s kind of difficult to leave that behind, because I don’t think you can replicate that in any other kind of business.”

Kilbane and his wife, Janet, are moving to Charlotte, N.C. where her company, Covia, has relocated her following a recent acquisition and IPO, he said.

For Kilbane and the wider community, his departure bookends a mini-era within the successful longer run of the New Canaan Toy Store, which the family has traced to 1928 as part of a general store, emerging as a standalone shop around the late-1940s and living much of its life as ‘Hobbyland.’

“The customers here in New Canaan are great,” Kilbane said. “They have always supported this toy store and I hope they will continue to do so because it is such a historical piece of the community fabric, and one of the longest-running businesses in New Canaan. So I hope they keep supporting it. The new family is wonderful and they will put their energy and enthusiasm into it and I think it’s going to be great. … It has been an incredible incredible run for 22 years. Doing this it has been probably the funnest experience in my life. To see kids grow up, come back married with kids and shopping in the same toy store—it is something that is really indescribable.”

The new owners are Nathan Shapiro and his parents, Ilene Traiger and then Joe Shapiro, all of Ridgefield, Kilbane said.

Kilbane called moving to Charlotte “another new adventure” and said he and Janet have been thinking of moving down south anyway, “and now that decision is made for us.”

“It’s really exciting, but New Canaan is an absolutely wonderful town, with great friends and family nearby, so that is challenging,” he said. 

Asked about his own plans for Charlotte, Kilbane said, “I’m too young to retire. I am going to chase down a few more dreams, see what they got down there.”

12 thoughts on “Chris Kilbane Sells ‘New Canaan Toy Store’ After 22 Years

  1. I always looked forward to toy shopping for kids of almost any age. Chris was always cheerful and helpful…..always…..He will be missed.

  2. We went from shopping for our kids to shopping for our grandkids at the Toy Store. Always found what we needed. Best of luck, Chris.

  3. Congratulations Chris and Janet – you will be missed, not only at the New Canaan Toy Store, but also in and around the New Canaan Community. You have both been active volunteers in many capacities around town in addition to running a successful business. Thank you for finding a new family to take over the business. I hope they will become as active and involved in the community as you have been. Charlotte is lucky to have you both on the way! All the best!

  4. Since moving to the area a couple of years ago New Canaan Toy Store has been our go-to place for birthday gifts and of course toys for our little guy. Best of luck to Chris and his family on their new adventure in Charlotte and many thanks for running this historical gem for 22 years!

  5. Chris
    What a wonderful new adventure for you and Janet

    Our family has fond memories of our years in New Canaan shopping and visiting your store . All our kids remember those times fondly. Dena especially has many many memories of working with you.

    You will be missed but wish you the very best

  6. Not only has Chris Kilbane been a great asset to the community; he also gave many kids in New Canaan their first jobs. He gave guidance, encouragement and instilled in them an exceptional work ethic that they will carry with them forever. Thank you Chris!

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