Before you visit the new Goofy Turtle toy store inside the Tampa Premium Outlets (located next to Saks Off 5th), you should get rid of all of the preconceived notions you have about toy stores.
Goofy Turtle has prices similar to what you’ll find at Walmart or Target, and has a selection that rivals the old Toys “R” Us stores, but in a much smaller space and with a completely different focus.
At Goofy Turtle — which is owned by long-time friends Swathi Atchuta, Soujanya Nomula and Lakshmi Kanthi Korlepara and their spouses — although there are some more traditional toys, the emphasis is on fun toys for kids that also are educational. Really.
The three families that own Goofy Turtle all have children ages 7-11 and all have lamented over the lack of anything educational to be found in most toy stores. They also didn’t like the idea of finding items they thought they would like on Amazon and other online services that they ended up having to return because they either weren’t of the quality or the size they expected.
“One thing we can honestly say is that people who buy toys here don’t bring them back because they’re not satisfied,” Swathi says. “Our staff is trained to know about every toy in the store and people appreciate being able to see and touch what they buy before they buy it!”
So, since Goofy Turtle is a new franchise that currently only has three stores — the flagship store in Manchester, CT, plus Grapevine, TX, and the Lutz/Wesley Chapel location at the outlet mall — the partners liked the flexibility and the corporate entity’s focus on educational toys.
Unfortunately, the local partners originally leased their space in late 2019, or just before the pandemic hit, and weren’t able to open until shortly before Christmas of 2020.
“No one knew we were here,” says Swathi, “so we’re trying to get the word out now about everything we have to offer.”
A Truly Amazing Selection!
Although mine and Jannah’s kids are now adults, we are both grandparents to amazing toddlers and Goofy Turtle starts with the kind of fun, educational toys that stimulate young minds like Jax’s and Rosie’s. From musical Ditty Bird and Poke-A-Dot books by Melissa & Doug, dolls, musical toys, play mats, trucks and so much more by Melissa & Doug, Haba and Green Toys (whose toys are all made from recycled materials), to “crafty” toys for slightly older kids, like Aquabeads, Craft-Tastic, Land of Dough (which is a truly reusable Play-Doh improvement taken to the next level) and so many others, young minds never had so much fun learning — at least my kids never did!
Yes, there is a smattering of Disney and Star Wars learning toys mixed in, but even the plush toys at Goofy Turtle are educational, especially the large variety of Wild Republic animals and dinosaurs.
Swathi also says that kids love hanging out in Goofy Turtle’s unique Princess Castle (see photo at the bottom of the previous page) so much that many parents have asked them where they got it so they can re-create it in their own homes.
If you have older kids and/or teenagers in your home who also would appreciate playing with something other than (or, at least, in addition to) video games, Goofy Turtle also has you covered with such high-tech wizardry that a lot of it went over my head…completely!
“Not only do we have an entire STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) toy section, we also have quite a few STEAM toys that include that Art element, too,” Swathi says, as she shows me one of several Power Blox by E-Blox sets that can even use your kids’ existing building bricks to create their own toys that light up and move. Think Legos on steroids.
There also is a large section of wall devoted to coding toys.
Science toys include everything from the Thinkfun brand Code Master and Code On The Brink programming logic games (for ages 8-definitely-not-this-adult) to the MoBotz Ramblez voice-changing “sidekick” and the UpShot Bow & Arrow gaming system from Odyssey, Steve Spangler Science brand Oobleck! slime/quicksand and so many more that I’m really not doing the list of STEM and STEAM goodies justice.
And of course, since drone vehicles are the wave of the future, not only is there a huge selection of drones for sale, there’s even what I call the Drone Cone, where kids can learn how to control and fly their drones in an enclosed space.
Swathi and her partner Soujanya’s husband Eshwar Babu Vanaparthi, who helped take me on the tour of the store, also promise that as the Covid pandemic hopefully becomes more and more a thing of the past, that Goofy Turtle will offer much more opportunity for kids to try out toys in the store.
There’s even plans to convert one area of the store (near the Princess Castle) into an enclosed small party room where each child in attendance can play with a toy their parents have purchased and other fun play ideas coming soon.
In other words, even though Goofy Turtle also offers more traditional play blocks, pogo sticks and other less-educational toys, this is no ordinary toy store and you should definitely bring your kids of all ages to check it out!
Goofy Turtle (2416 Grand Cypress Dr.ºw) is open Mon.-Thur., 11 a.m.-8 p.m., 10 a.m.-9 p.m. on Fri. & Sat. & 10 a.m.-7 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, call (813) 406-0518 or visit GoofyTurtle.com and please tell them the Wesley Chapel Neighborhood News sent you!