Marvin Hecht (1927-2019) opened Cut-Rate Toys at 2424 West Devon Avenue, Chicago, in 1958. He was an angry man who apparently didn't like children (his angry actions spoke volumes). He sat in his raised watch tower by the cashiers.
I'm sure shoppers threw stuff at Hecht, which is why he wrapped his cage in chicken wire. Try yelling at adults to their faces and see what happens. Now I understand why he secured his little perch. Adults put up with Hecht's antics because the prices were low.
Hecht's philosophy regarding toys was "low price, high volume." He'd buy up odd lots at toy shows and pick up closeouts from Mattel, Milton Bradley, Hasbro and other toy makers.
“He would get on the microphones and say, ‘Get your children’s hands off the toys or get them out of the store, NOW!’ His Daughter, Linda Karmin, said. “I mean, people were terrified of him.” Dad was a passionate musician who played classical piano concerts for charity.
Hecht habitually posted hand-written signs on the front door, naming and shaming children who had been caught stealing. The signs were quite blunt and always included the kid's name and the phone number of the shoplifter's parents.
|You can see a note on the front door in this photo. Example: "Bobby Smith at 6512 North Washtenaw was caught stealing from this store. Call his parents at HO 5-0000 and ask them why they raised a child who steals."|
I went into Cut-Rate Toys, by myself, with the money I was gifted for my 10th birthday. When I was there with my mom, I heard the owner yell at adults and kids over the loudspeaker.
I was looking to buy a Hot Wheels track set. I picked up a box to see all the sides and what was included. Suddenly, I heard the owner yell over the loudspeaker, "YOU... IN ISLE NUMBER FIVE, PUT THAT BOX DOWN NOW!!! DON'T TOUCH ANYTHING!" I was startled and embarrassed, and the box slipped out of my hands, hitting the floor and denting a corner of the box.
The owner came running out of his office, screaming, "NOW YOU'RE GOING TO BUY THAT!" I was furious. "If I'm not good enough to look at what I want to buy first," I said, "I just won't buy anything!" He tried to grab me, but I ran out of the store.
At eight years old, I was taking the 155 Devon Bus to the Loyola 'L' station to take the subway downtown, by myself. I'd shop at Marshall Field & Company and usually went to Baer's Treasure Chest to play pinball and Skee-Ball and check out the Pro Magic Center on their second floor before heading home. In later years, I was lucky enought to meet Magician Marshall Brodien who worked part time at the Treasure Chest demonstrating complicated magic tricks for professionals.
That was the last time I went to Cut-Rate Toys. I was so disgusted by the owner's behavior that I vowed never to give him my business again.
This practice would not be allowed today, as it would be considered harassment or defamation of a minor and perhaps result in a lawsuit.
In 1992 the store moved to 5409 West Devon Avenue in the Edgebrook neighborhood of the Forest Glen community in Chicago. The store closed in 2015. Marvin Hecht worked for 60 years in the toy business.
Copyright © 2023, Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.