CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - Gusts of wind can easily whip through a nearly empty parking lot at a three-store strip mall near William Street in Cape Girardeau.
The last remaining store in the shopping area was a Toys "R" Us and it closed its doors in April.
The first warning sign came when the corporation filed for bankruptcy in September 2017, and president of the Cape Area Chamber of Commerce, John Mehner, said that they had the big box toy store on their radar as one that could likely be phased out.
"Competition and online shopping has caused them to close more than 20 percent of their local stores," Mehner said. "Certainly other stores here have toys and those will be ones that benefit locally from what has gone on."
One of those retailers is Discover Playhouse, a non-profit children's museum that has 14,000 square feet of exhibits and sells some toys in their gift shop.
The executive director there, Molly Wilhelm, also has a 10-year old daughter.
Wilhelm said she wasn't surprised when she heard that the nearby Toys "R" Us was closing because she hadn't shopped there in years and thinks more parents are resorting to hand-me-downs or buying online.
"There are a lot of Facebook pages that will target families and target moms to sell gently used toys," she said. "Kids only play with toys for such a short period of time. My daughter would play with something for a few days and it would be tossed aside and stuck in a closet somewhere. You don't want to spend a lot of money."
The coordinator for corporate communications at Toys "R" Us, Amanda Kahl, said that about 25 employees work at each store and that all staff that can't be transferred to nearby locations will be offered severance packages.
"The good news is locally our unemployment rate is very low," Mehner said. "There are many, many jobs available, and the opportunity for those folks to find other employment will be here."
The corporate toy store was the third company to close in the same building, which is owned by a separate real estate trust.
Hancock Fabrics and Big Lots both discontinued their Cape Girardeau locations within the last few years. Both stores were subleasing the spaces from Walmart which used to occupy the space and still has a long-term lease with the owner.
"Walmart has been subleasing," Mehner said. "But certainly doesn't want to do substantial building improvements because they're less than two years on their contract. It makes it a very challenging situation to put the many interested people in that location actually into a lease."
That means the shopping area near a busy road in Cape Girardeau could remain empty for quite some time.
The nearest Toys "R" Us stores that will remain open are in Carbondale, Illinois and Paducah, Kentucky. The full list of stores closing can be found here.