The Gifted Child
What started as “a wonderful, fun summer” in the Berkshires in 1981 turned into a lifelong career as a toy seller for Randy Austin, owner of The Gifted Child. Growing up, Randy spent her summers visiting the Berkshires with her family, but decided to make it her full-time residence when she saw an ad in the penny saver for an opening in a pushcart guild in West Stockbridge. With some help from her brother, she constructed a wooden pushcart which she toted around town selling toys, beach items, clothing, and children’s accessories to townspeople and tourists all summer long. Her entrepreneurial endeavor turned out to be so fulfilling and successful that she decided to open up permanent retail stores in Lenox and Great Barrington.
In her previous life, Randy was inspired to become a social worker after studying psychology in college. Having worked with families for many years, she knew exactly what children liked to play with, which toys were good for child development, and which ones were just a passing fad. The Gifted Child isn’t a trendy toy store, but a children's boutique that carries “everything for a kid,” Randy says. When curating her stores, she selects items that have critical value - toys that stimulate learning and creativity to boost child development. That said, unicorns never seem to go out of style!
There’s no shortage of stores dedicated to children in Great Barrington. While they each have a different flair, what they have in common is their status as cornerstones of the downtown shopping scene. Like her peers, over the years Randy has experienced a troublesome increase in “showrooming” – meaning customers view a product in-person and then order it online once leaving the store, or even worse, while still inside the store. “The only reason we still exist is because of local customers,” Randy shares, “but when you lose business to online shopping, local stores lose income and are forced to go out of business.” Randy’s call to action: local people have to return to Main Street and support local businesses; BerkShares are a great tool to encourage local spending.
When COVID hit, Randy and team hustled to create a website and online shopping platform to digitize her business and remain competitive, but that’s not the only thing she intends to modernize. Looking ahead, The Gifted Child will adopt a more contemporary look: maintaining excellent quality goods while streamlining toward muted colors and fewer brands. This will be a departure from both stores’ current aesthetics, in which shoppers are greeted by floor-to-ceiling coverage of brightly colored toys, games, and clothing items. This is the way the childrens industry is moving, Randy says. In short, it will be “more beautiful, less assaulting on the eyes.”
The growing pains of COVID presented Randy with the opportunity to reflect and pivot; now, she is hopeful for the evolution and future of The Gifted Child. There’s one element she hopes isn’t lost in the transition, though: the magic of watching adults who shopped at The Gifted Child as children now returning with children of their own.
*The Gifted Child is currently offering 30-50% off the majority of items in their Great Barrington store to make way for new inventory.