Charles Lazarus, the founder of Toys ‘R’ Us, died on March 22 in New York City at age 94.
Describing his death as “heartbreaking,” the retailer said Lazarus died after a period of declining health and it will “forever be grateful for his positive energy, passion for the customer and love for children everywhere.”
Lazarus’ death came not long after the bankrupt toy company announced it would be closing its doors.
The company tweeted: “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.”
Lazarus first started a baby furniture business in Washington, D.C. in 1948 to cater to the post-war baby boom. He ran the store by himself, overseeing the entire operation, including delivering furniture right to the customer’s homes.
In 1950, Lazarus added toys to his store after realizing parents would continually buy new toys for their children. He eventually opened a store in 1957 dedicated only to toys, calling it Toys ‘R’ Us — with the ‘R’ backward to make it look like it was written by a kid.
By 1966, Lazarus had four stores that together sold about $12 million worth of toys every year. According to a 2008 profile of Lazarus in Entrepreneur Magazine, he then sold the business for $7.5 million in cash, but stayed on as head of the toy division. He remained in that position until 1994, when Michael Goldstein became CEO.
Check out this adorable 1994 commercial featuring Lazarus guaranteeing you’ll find the lowest prices at his store:
“He was the father of the toy business,” Goldstein told CNN Money after Lazarus’ death. “He knew the toys and loved the toys and loved the kids who would shop in the stores. His face lit up when he watched kids playing with toys.”
The company had been struggling in recent years due to competition from retailers like Target and Walmart and online shopping at places like Amazon. On March 14, Toys ‘R’ Us announced the would be closing all of their nearly 800 U.S. stores and leaving around 33,000 people without jobs.
This truly feels like the end of an era. Thank you for the memories, Charles. Our thoughts are with his family and the entire Toys ‘R’ Us family.