This week I had the honor to interview one of the owners of my all time favorite children’s stores on the planet, Yoyamart in New York City, in the heart of the Meatpacking District.
I sat down with Stephane Gerbier to discuss his inspiration for Yoyamart , and there was no monkeying around with this very serious man (insert sarcasm here). Here are the things we learned:
Stephan, a French father of two, came to the idea of Yoyamart with his partners, Cristina Villegas Boujnah, JD Boujnah (who designed their now iconic Yoyamart Monkey Logo) and his wife Gena Gerbier, when they would take their kids to toy stores or clothing stores and could not wait to escape! They decided they must open a store where both the parent and the child want to spend time, linger and enjoy the shopping experience. They wanted a store that was genuinely inspiring to both adult and child and sold thought-provoking, beautiful, stimulating and amusing toys and clothing.
So in 2002, Yoya clothing boutique was born, and Yoyamart followed in 2004, with toys, gadgets, dvd’s, books, clothing and more! Stephane explained to me that he wanted Yoyamart to be a place where a father can spend quality time with his child. He observed that there was nothing in the children’s marketplace geared towards fathers and decided that the FATHER is way too large a demographic to ignore. There are the married dads, the single dads, the gay dads, the divorced dads, and all are looking for a unique, cool, fun place to shop not only with their children, but also for themselves (as we know most men are just big kids!)
The inspiration for Yoyamart also came from another place. Stephane saw a real lack of creativity in the children’s market. The toy industry does not seem to give children enough credit, and routinely feeds them the same old images and toys and characters year after year after year. The industry has no real vision for our children and keep churning out the same old recognizable stuff. Children should not be underestimated. Children have an incredible sense for what is truly inspiring and moving to them. Children fall in love with something purely out of instinct and attraction. Children choose the objects they love with a very pure heart, free of judgment or references.
Stephane says they wanted to create a place where a child’s intelligence was respected and they could offer something new. A new way to look at toys and inspire their imaginations. They also wanted to fill a niche where both the child and the parent could come in an browse. Yoyamart offers a great variety for both child and parent alike. It is an imagination wonderland!
Then, Stephane and I really got down to business and I asked him some tough questions-
Who is your favorite villain? The Joker
Who is your favorite hero? Batman (from the original TV show)
What is the quality you most admire in a child? Creativity and patience.
What is your favorite candy? Jawbreakers
What did you dream of becoming when you where a child? A pilot
Describe yourself in 4 words? COOL. GUY. TO. KNOW.
If you were a color, what color would you be? RED, for passion!
What are your favorite names? Hannah and Noah, my two beautiful children.
What is your motto? Be thankful for what you have.
What is your favorite sound? Thunder & rain
What is your favorite ice cream? Pistachio
What is your favorite children’s movie? The Jungle Book
What is your favorite toy in the store? The custom Yoya Monster designed by David Horvath, who also designed the Ugly Dolls.
What is your favorite day of the week? Sunday because that is the day I get to spend time with my family.
What is your most amazing childhood memory? Being chosen at age 4 to be an extra in a movie called ‘Nous Irons A Deauville” by the great French comic actor Louis De Funes. He just picked me off the beach. Amazing!
What are your favorite kids clothing brands? Yoya and Yoyamart of course, but also Bellerose, Essentiel, Tokidoki and Ryder & James.
What is your favorite place to eat with your kids? Pastis
Favorite vacation spot to take the kids? Japan for the culture, food, Miyazaki films and designer toys! We also love Barbados, Anguila, and Turks & Caicos. My beautiful wife is from the islands and we love the relaxed pace of life.
Okay, tell us what your favorite objects in the store are?
Moonboots by Tecnica
Ursa The Wooden Bear by Areaware
Magnetic Chalkboard Paint by Yoyamart
Anatomic 3D Frog Puzzle by Kikkerland
Fat Cat Designer Toy designed by Amanda Visell by Zakka Mono
The Bird Book by Andrew Zuckerman
Spongebob Bearbrick 400% by Medicom
Thank you to the entire Yoyamart Team, special love to Joey, for letting us come and hang out with you and get truly inspired!
Cristina, JD, Gina and Stephane
Yoyamart is located at 15 Gansevoort Street- 212 242 5511 / www.yoyashop.com
Photography by Andrew Adler