Charles Lazarus, Founder of Toys R Us, Dies at 94

Charles Lazarus opened what would become the first Toys R Us store in 1948.

Charles Lazarus, the Toys R Us founder who was affectionately known by those who loved him as the "Toy King," has died. He was 94.

Lazarus died in Manhattan on Thursday. His cause of death was not immediately known.

Born in 1923, Lazarus served in World War II as a cryptologist before returning home to start a family and a business.

At 25 years old, Lazarus opened a baby furniture store called Children’s Bargain Town below his father’s bike shop in Washington D.C., in 1948. One day, a parent came in inquiring about baby toys. 

He eventually realized there was an even bigger need for toys and got out of the furniture business, renaming his store Toys R Us.

The demand for trinkets that came with the baby boom was greater than he had anticipated. 

"I was fortunate to join it," Lazarus said of the baby boom in a documentary for his grandchildren. "I had no idea where it would go to. I had no idea of the size of what the toy business can be."

The business blossomed and expanded, and with it came Lazarus' realization that his clientele was a happy one. 

"You buy it because you want to buy it, you don't buy it because you have to buy it," he said of the products Toys R Us sold. "It's kind of a happy consumer, as a rule."

Lazarus reportedly welcomed innovation and embraced the age of video games, which helped bring an older demographic into his stores. 

“There is an increasingly fine line between where adult begins and child ends," he once told The Washington Post

He was inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame by the American Toy Institute in 1990. Four years later, Lazarus stepped down as chairman and chief executive of the toy giant he created, which is now based in Wayne, N.J.

"There have been many sad moments for Toys R Us in recent weeks, and none more heartbreaking than today’s news about the passing of our beloved founder, Charles Lazarus," the company said in a statement to “He visited us in New Jersey just last year and we will forever be grateful for his positive energy, passion for the customer and love for children everywhere. Our thoughts and prayers are with Charles’ family and loved ones.”

The death of Lazarus comes as Toys R Us stores across the country close their doors for good. The company announced last week it will shut or sell all of its 735 U.S. locations. 

He is survived by his two daughters, Ruth and Diane.