- He wanted be his own boss.
- He only wanted to sell things people wanted to buy (as opposed to needed to buy).
In 1949, he and his wife Esther bought a house at 407 First Street a couple blocks from the birthplace of the Republican Party, turned the main floor into selling space, the upstairs into offices and the basement into storage.
On May 23, 1949 they opened and called it Toy House.
Everyone said they were crazy. “You can’t sell toys year-round in Jackson.” But they did. In fact, they sold so many toys that the business outgrew that original house.
In the mid-1950’s they bought the two houses south of them to make room for expansion and a parking lot.
At the same time that the store was expanding, the first of many competitors opened in Jackson. Shopper’s Fair, a giant discounter that was the predecessor to big box stores like Walmart and Target showed up on the north side of town. Everyone told Conley that Shopper’s Fair would put him out of business. Shopper’s Fair only lasted a handful of years. Toy House kept growing.
In 1957 Good Housekeeping Magazine did a story on Phil & Esther Conley highlighting young entrepreneur couples who had started their own businesses.
The next major event for the store happened in 1962 when Phil & Esther bought out a neighboring baby furniture store and added baby products to the mix. Phil had originally helped Bennett’s Furniture open in 1958 but by 1962 Mr Bennett wanted out. Originally, they called the new baby business at Toy House “Li’l Folks.” Eventually we changed the name from Toy House to Toy House and Baby Too.
Read more here.