Smart Toys and Books reopens

New owners focus on adding children’s activity areas

Smart Toys and Books is re-opening its doors with new owners and new features.

The store will continue to have its unique toys and parties, but now Smart Toys and Books also will have interactive playground and activity areas, where children can climb, slide, spin and crawl and a store employee will watch them while their parents shop.

Ken and Angela Zhou, the store’s new owners, will hold the store’s grand opening from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 13, in the store at 9700 Kingston Pike in Franklin Square shopping center, Knoxville.

The event will include face painting, balloon art, a 20-percent discount on purchases and goody bags for the first children who come in, Michelle Borja, a representative with BKreative Brand Marketing, said.

After it opens, the store’s hours will be from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and from 1 to 5:30 p.m., on Sundays.

For more information, call Angela Zhou, 865-6060, or e-mail

For 30 years, Lynda Blanken-ship, founder of Smart Toys and Books, owned and operated the business. She and her daughters decided to close the store Dec. 31, 2015. At that time, Blankenship said she hoped to find a buyer who would continue her legacy.

During a shopping trip

after Christmas 2015, Ken

said he learned from one of Blankenship’s daughters the store was closing.

“We were devastated when it closed,” Ken Zhou said. “We have been shopping here for years, and we also attended several birthday parties here. It was kind of sad to watch this store close.”

He said Blankenship’s daughter asked if he was interested in speaking to the agent, and he said he would think about it.

“I talked to my wife. She’s trying to do some business on her own since her children, Olivia and Mason, are going to school,” he said. The Zhous decided to give owning a toy store a try. They took the lease April 1.

They partnered with friends, James and Hui Kao, to co-own the store.

“We’re super excited [to own the store], Ken said. “Personally, I love playing with toys with my kids. When I was growing up, I pretty much played marbles in the dirt. Now, all of a sudden we can have a dream come true.

“We can test all the toys and meet all the toy reps and they bring all the goodies. We could play with [the toys]. It just so much fun.”

The Zhous put in all their efforts and savings into opening the store, he said. They decided to make it more activity-driven than a traditional store.

“We thought the parents could do the shopping while kids have fun and meet new friends,” he said.

The Zhous remodeled the store to feature jungles and forests, a castle and a pirate ship. They set up a playground area and a reading area.

“It took us three months to finish this project,” he said.

The playground area encompasses 2,000 square feet of the space with the rest of the store’s space is dedicated to retail for most of the kinds of toys the previous Smart Toys and Books carried, he said.

“We have 1,400 items for parents to choose,” he said.

The Zhous also updated the parties to include playtime and it will have themed parties for smaller children.

They also have added Kindermusik, an early childhood music program, an art boutique with arts and crafts classes.

“The art room is all new,” Angela said. “It used to be the office. We have new products that go along with the art line.”

They also are planning to add Spanish and baby yoga classes.