Toy shop gets 'Better with Less'

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May 3, 2011

Cumberland Times-News, Elaine Blaisdell

Tree House receives award from Comptroller Franchot

CUMBERLAND — Margy and Heiko Pein of Tree House Toy Shop on Baltimore Street were presented with the Better with Less award from Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot on Tuesday.

“The award is being given to you because you have managed through the tough economic times. You symbolize the heart and soul of the Maryland economy,” said Franchot. “You are family-owned, have repeat customers and as I understand it, are open every day. You have done better with less, you are innovative and successful.”

Margy was taken aback that she had won the award.

“I’ve never had to do anything I didn’t enjoy. It’s (the toy store) a passion and project that I love,” said Margy.

“Small businesses are the backbone of economy,” said Allegany County Commissioner Mike McKay. “This shop emanates that better can be done with less.”

Franchot questioned the Peins about their key to success.

“Repeat customers and customer satisfaction,” said Margy, who explained that customers come from all over. “Our repeat customer is our prize customer.”

The Better for Less program is designed to recognize organizations which have achieved economic succes while using fewer resources, identified new market opportunities in the current economic climate, used innovation to operate more efficiently or strengthened local communities by providing vital services or opportunities for success.

One winner will be named in each county and Baltimore City. Lakeside Creamery in Garrett County also received the award.

The Tree House Toy Shop was founded in May 2002 and was originally located at the C&O Canal terminus. Last January the business moved to its new location at 45 Baltimore St.

“This is an appropriate celebration and it’s indictive of opportunities that exist in downtown Cumberland,” said Mayor Brian Grim. “It’s a success story that can be had all over downtown.”

The Tree House offers an array of educational toys that aren’t typically sold in stores like Walmart, according to Margy. She enjoys the educational aspect of the store.

“People bring in their kids and they ask my advice. It’s almost like being a teacher. It amazes me that I get to share with the kids,” said Margy.

One of the unique toys that the store offers are Fripperies, hand-crafted dolls that are made by the Peins’ daughter, Jamie Merlavage. Merlavage creates the dolls solely because they make her happy, according to the Maryland Mountainside website. Fripperies is another word used to describe something showy, frivolous, and nonessential, according to the thesaurus. “It fits perfectly,” writes Merlavage on the website.

The dolls are located in a room in the back of the store with other toys for little girls. The rest of the toy store is organized into sections for games, puppets and arts and craft supplies. There are also interactive tables in the store where children can color and play.

Another unique brand sold at the store are Folkmanis® hand puppets, which happen to be one of Margy’s favorites.  

“I like the puppets because they are most free to interpretation,” said Margy as she picked up a Rabbi Jack puppet.

Margy, who is the proud mother of two children and three grandchildren, gets advice from her 8-year-old and 5-year-old grandchildren on what types of toys they like.

Adrienne Ottaviani, executive director of the Maryland Coal Association, who nominated the Peins, explained that she was called by the comptroller about businesses to nominate. “I thought about Margy and there was no doubt that the Peins needed to be awarded. They struggled as a family to get to where they are today.”

The toy store also hosts events like the Bunny Trail and the Midnight Madness Christmas Sale.

Also attending the celebration to offer their congratulations were Sen. George Edwards, Stuart C. Czapski, executive director/president of the Allegany County Chamber of Commerce and Dawne Lindsay, Allegany County Circuit Court clerk.

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .