Holiday Spirit Fills the Air
By Barbara Ballint
Belmont County, Ohio offers family fun during the holiday season. From a family-owned toy store to a Victorian mansion museum, the holiday spirit fills the air.
The community of Martins Ferry is home to one of “The Best of Ohio 2020” list. Deluxe Toy & Hobby has been named one of the best toy stores in the state. The 65-year-old toy store is full of unique and classic toys, as well as hobby items and games. Located at the corner of Hanover and 5th Street, the toy store is a must see to believe!
William and Angela Tolbert opened the original store in 1955. The store back then was a one-room, 900 square foot building packed with toys. Currently owned by daughter and son-in law Constance and Michael Yeso, Deluxe Toy & Hobby is possibly the largest, continuously family owned toy store in the nation.
Busting at the seams, the toy store moved to its current location in 1978. The owners were quoted saying that they never imagined they would possibly fill the current building which is a three-story structure. Now, the owners could possible fill another building the same size with their collection.
Each level of the store houses different toys. The ground level contains the crowd pleasers: giant Magic 8 balls, trucks, stuffed animals, and books. It also displays many science-related toys, art supplies, plastic model kits, remote controlled vehicles, trains, and accessories. The downstairs area holds recreational toys: sleds, pool floaties and bike tires.
It also displays action toys, sports equipment, and outdoor toys. The upstairs is full of board games, the latest dolls, pretend toys, along with Fisher Price retro model toys and Lincoln Logs. Even the stairwells house shelves of toys.
The store is also the ideal stop for hobby enthusiasts. From trains to remote control cars, model cars to rockets, the Yesos know that hobbies are a great way for people to spend their downtime. And a great way for families to spend time together.
The family puts a lot of time and attention into selecting the toys for the store. Every February, they travel to New York City for the American International Toy Fair, an event the couple has not missed in 40 years. Over 25,000 people attend the event that showcases over 1,500 toy companies.
The American International Toy Fair displays everything toys, from classic toys to the latest tech toys. Incredibly unique products can be found at the fair.
Besides the fact that this is a family owned business, what makes the store even more special is the customer and family first atmosphere. The owners and employees like to help you with their customer’s purchase. They like finding out who the purchase is for and enjoy helping find the perfect item to purchase. It is very obvious that they truly love what they do.
The Yesos have met hundreds of thousands of people since owning the store. They have a map on display with pins showing where their customers are from. Most of the states are pinned as well as Hawaii and Alaska. They have generations of families that look forward to visiting the store for the holidays. So, with the holidays quickly approaching, this is a place that you want to visit. If you’re wanting to reserve items, Deluxe Toy & Hobby still honor layaways.
Another must stop during the holidays in Belmont County is in Barnesville. The Belmont County Victorian Mansion Museum hosts the annual “Magic of Christmas” tours in an elegant, 26-room mansion spectacularly decorated for the holidays. Each year, volunteer decorators manage to outdo themselves.
There is so much to see that it is worth taking the tour more than once. The attendees do a wonderful job explaining the history of the mansion and of the decorations.
To complete your holiday trip, you will want to find out if Santa is in the area during your visit. In 1994 Mike Slenski was asked by a fellow member of his church to portray their Santa because he resembled the jolly old elf and had an outgoing personality.
He rented a suitable suit for the occasion, and in June Mike began taking classes in Columbus. “I am the happiest man alive in the Ohio Valley in November and December,” said Mike (aka Santa Mike).
Santa Mike has a degree from Santa University. “I took the Santa Oath. It’s all about the children,” he said. At Santa University he learned how to interact with children and families, take pictures with youngsters, and how to be Santa at events. “I learned how to exhibit the best appearance as Santa from head to toe,” Mike said. “I learned how to answer children’s questions about Santa, my reindeer, and the North Pole.”
For more information about the “holiday happenings” in Belmont County, see the website visitbelmontcounty.com. You can also find out information about the attractions and events by visiting them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media platforms.
Deluxe Toy & Hobby