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Couple to keep toys in downtown

Ella and Mark Nimz to open Tree House Toys in former Toy Bear space
by: John Klicker, High school sweethearts Mark and Ella Nimz say their sons, Cole, 9, and Seth, 6, are thrilled about their new business venture.

Children and parents of Gresham rejoice - Toy Bear Ltd. may be closing, but the town won't be toy-free forever.

A local family plans to open Tree House Toys in the former Toy Bear space by Labor Day.

Ella and Mark Nimz, high school sweethearts who married shortly after their 1988 graduation from Reynolds High, said they couldn't imagine downtown Gresham without a toy store.

'I can remember, as a kid, my brothers and I would go down there, to the Toy Bear, to shop,' Mark remembers. 'So owning a toy store here is like a dream come true.'

The couple's children, Cole, 9, and Seth, 6, students at Fairview Elementary School, are both one step past psyched.

Seth, an animal lover known for sneaking bugs and reptiles onto the school bus, can't wait to help his parents organize the reptile corner.

Other ideas, like a candy corner, a spray-on tattoo booth and weekend events with storytelling, clowns and face painting, are in the works, but Ella Nimz says she will keep many Toy Bear-type toys.

'I like the educational toys. It's hard to find games that older kids Cole's age can play that are not video games, so that's one thing we'll try to find,' Ella says.

The family also loves old-fashioned toys - something the Toy Bear always stocked - but Ella wants to add some more affordable toys for children who have a few quarters burning a hole in their pocket.

The couple plans to build a giant, two-story tree house in the middle of the shop, with a tree house on top and a slide to the bottom.

'We want to have a really hands-on toy shop,' Ella says. 'Cole told us it would be cool if we had samples of all the toys we sell, so kids could try them out.'

Most important to Ella and Mark are the people who will work at the new toyshop.

'We want to have people working there who really love being with children and who will be excited about the toys,' Ella says.

The timing of the whole venture has been a little rough. The couple got financing two days after deciding to open a toy store and now they're flying to Los Angeles (with Ella, freshly injured from a trampoline accident, riding in a wheelchair) to pick out inventory.

There are no regrets, though.

'We just feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to do something like this in that building,' Ella says of the space at 130 N. Main Ave. 'The building is beautiful, and we're so happy to be there.'

Other downtown business owners say they're pleased with the new addition.

'Anything that keeps people in downtown Gresham is great,' said David Jothen, owner of Pup Scrub and co-president of the Historic Downtown Gresham Business Association. 'A toy store brings people in from across the spectrum - kids, parents, grandparents. I just think it's really cool, what they're planning to do.'

Pat Fiedler, owner of the Toy Bear Ltd., decided last month to close her shop after 24 years in business.

At that time, Fiedler said the decision was an emotional one, but that she couldn't afford a recent rent increase.

Fiedler also owns Child's Play toy store on Northwest 23rd Avenue in Portland and is opening another toyshop, Green Frog, in Portland's Pearl District, this September.

The Toy Bear's official last day is Sunday, July 23. The Nimz family hopes to open Tree House Toys the first week of September.