With its owner retiring and no successor in sight, the Alt-Stadt’s oldest toy shop by Stephansdom will close after 147 years.
Schulerstraße 1-3 is the official address of “Carl Hilpert KG”. But most people just know it as “the toy store behind St. Stephan’s Cathedral”. Here, you can buy Lego and Playmobil, dolls, little airplanes, model railway accessories and a lot more. But only for another two months – and often at a discount. When owner Alexander Hilpert retires at the end of June with no successor, he will be closing a business that has been in the family at that location since 1872.
Whatever his regrets, it also comes as a relief. “I have now finished the second year negative. If I were to keep going, it would end dramatically,” Hilpert told the daily TV program “Wien heute“. With rents high in the heart of Vienna, and competition intense from internet providers like Amazon and chains offering toys online, the last few years have been difficult. Combined with personnel costs, it was a daunting prospect for any new owners.
Customers will miss the shop. On Google Review, many have expressed regret at the closing: “I always got my model cars there as a child. A place of joy! Will keep you in memory,” a former customer wrote. “An institution I associate with many childhood memories,” another agreed. “For a long time, time stood still here,”
Not the first casualty
Other prominent toy dealers in and near Vienna have already closed their doors citing too little turnover. The toy retailer Kober was one, declaring insolvency in 2016. Another well-known toy chain Toys R’ Us was taken over out of bankruptcy by the Irish industry giant Smyth Toys, and will be re-launched with a streamlined product range. The Spielzeugstube in Linz closed its doors a year ago, and the Spielwarenhandlung Bitter in Rohrbach-Berg, Upper Austria, will also close in June.
For Alexander Hilpert the transition is bittersweet, leaving behind his life’s work, also looking forward to the end: “The business has been around for a long time. I am the third generation,” he said in an interview with the U-Bahn daily Heute. “We have spent almost 50 years here. Both my grandfather and my father died on the way to the shop at 71. I have out-lived both, and I have no intention of imitating them.” Hilpert told the paper, he was looking forward to going cycling and hiking with his five grandchildren. And about the world of toy stores, he has made his peace: “Children will always need didactic toys. It is a good industry. And I wish it good fortune.”