The news earlier this week that Toys R Us will likely close all 800 of its stores, including its Babies R Us locations, could leave two gaping holes in Modesto's retail landscape.
The city has separate, longstanding Toys R Us and Babies R Us stores about a mile apart on Sisk Road. The Toys R Us at 2700 Sisk Road opened to much fanfare in September 1985. The 47,00-square-foot-store has been a staple for families and Black Friday shoppers ever since. The Babies R Us opened its 35,500 square feet store at 3500 Sisk Road in January 2000.
With both locations expected to shutter, the question of what will go into their empty buildings next remains. So we asked readers to weigh in on what they would like to see fill the voids left by Modesto's Toys R Us and Babies R Us. And, goodness, did you have suggestions.
Readers posted more than 500 responses ranging from a new roller rink to an IKEA and a lot in between. One of the prevailing opinions was to bring something in for youth.
"Our city is in desperate need of affordable, safe, fun activities for our youth. Growing up, my generation at least had a few options to stay out of trouble. Roller King, Discovery Zone, Nickle Play, discounted cinema all of which are no longer here. Kids and teens these days have very few safe, affordable options. Let's bring more of the family friendly places to Modesto. Maybe it would lead our youth back into a productive path in life," said Modesto resident Jessica Voelker.
It was a sentiment shared by many, particularly the prospect of bringing back something like the defunct Roller King. The roller skating rink was a fixture on the corner of Briggsmore and Orangeburg avenues for more than 30 years. First opened in 1974, it eventually limped to a close in 2005.
Now, 13 years later, the prospect of another rink has many people exited.
"Roller king! That's all Modesto needs. Bring back a rink and I bet this town sees a decrease in crime," said Modesto resident Chris E. Bashaw.
While youth activities like a roller rink, museum or play park were high on many people's lists, others hoped some popular retailers without a store in our area would finally come to town. The wish list included Swedish home goods purveyor IKEA, natural and organic supermarket Whole Foods, outlet clothing seller Nordstrom Rack, discount home furnishings shop HomeGoods, 18-and-over arcade and restaurant Dave & Buster's and even a resurrection of the recently closed thrift store Buy Rite.
And, of course, one of the area's most longed for restaurants also came up a few times.
"I mean can we get a Cheesecake factory here or what?!?! ," said Modesto resident Chanda Kor.
Still, some of the suggestions were more altruistic in nature. Tina Cooke suggested the spaces go toward tackling the city's seemingly intractable homeless problem.
"(Fill the spaces with) homeless shelters, free/low cost trade training, bathing facility, food bank, or soup kitchen," she said. "Some type of community investment going back in the people of our community."