For Angela and Mauricio Romy, owners of Happki, a toy store in Deer Park, there is nothing more exciting than when a UPS truck makes a delivery of toys.
“I do this every single time we get a box, a shipment of toys,” Mauricio said. “I say, “Oh my God, let me open it. Let me see how it works.’”
Their toy store is a little different than most. All the toys are sustainably made and are designed to help kids learn, and features toys not available in other stores.
“It became a focus to be able to find toys that were doing exactly that, so that (as parents) we weren’t just spending money on things that had lights and sounds and buttons and then it was going to get thrown away,” Angela said. “We wanted to focus on things that were going to last, things that were really going to be able to help (kids) develop new skills.”
Happki started as an online store in April of 2019; the physical store in Deer Park Town Center opened in November. After strong holiday sales, the store closed due to Covid-19 in March. The Romy’s said their saving grace was starting online because it made the government shut-down an easier transition. “While it’s been quiet in the store, our online store has kept us busy, thankfully,” Angela said.
Angela and Mauricio said they first came up with the idea for Happki after a trip to Barcelona when they shopped in a store with products they had never seen before. “We forgot very quickly that we were on a trip and that we really didn’t have space to bring all these things back home,” Angela said.
The couple discovered the store did not have any U.S. locations, so they researched to see if they could open a franchise back home. Due to copyright issues it didn’t work out. “We just said, you know what, we’ve already spent so much time doing so much homework with this… we are just going to start from scratch,” Angela said.
So, Angela and Mauricio created their own name, logo and found their own vendors. They decided on the name Happki by combining the words “happy” and “kids.”
Mauricio said different countries focus on different things when it comes to toys. In China parents pick toys to help kids learn, while toys in Europe emphasize sustainability and durability, and toys in America are all about happiness.
They try to find toys that exhibit these characteristics: “Every time we pick a new item … it at least has to fit two categories,” Mauricio said.
They also said a focus of theirs is also teaching kids about diversity. Mauricio believes this is something that the toy industry will explore more going forward. “I think that one of the purposes of us doing this project is teaching kids, that’s the main idea, and the obligation that we have to be able to bring products that show that it’s okay to be different,” Mauricio said.
Happki also provides toys for kids with disabilities, they said. This includes toys that are more sensory related, Angela said.
While it’s hard to pick a favorite, a popular toy in their store is the EzyRoller, a riding machine that they said even adults would love. Another brand they carry is Plan Toys from a company in Thailand that started as an architecture firm that pivoted to toy design.
Angela and Mauricio are already thinking about what’s next for Happki. Eventually they plan to launch a franchise with the Deer Park store as a prototype.
The couple recently created the Happki Foundation to help families in need. The foundation will donate toys to families and children’s hospitals during the holidays, as well as fund childhood initiatives in Colombia, where they are from.
Angela and Mauricio have two daughters of their own. The oldest, who’s nine, is especially interested in toys that are related to art and science, while their six-year-old enjoys just about anything the store offers: “They just absolutely love being able to come in here and finding new little treasures to take home,” Angela said.
Their daughters aren’t the only ones. Angela and Mauricio said their toys bring them back to their own childhood. “I grew up in a single-mother household, so there wasn’t an excess of toys,” Angela said. “For me being able to own a toy store and be here and pick out toys, I get to play with all of them, so I think I feel like a kid at heart.”
Happki, 21540 W. Field Parkway, is in Deer Park Town Center. Learn more at Happki.com.