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Struggling Northern shop owner lays off staff, appeals for help

'Places like Walmart and other big box stores will survive times like this but other small businesses may not. So, I am asking everyone before you click "add to cart" on Amazon or anywhere else, check out our site'
Shawn Splint, the owner of downtown North Bay's Creative Learning Toys. File photo.

The owner of downtown cornerstone business Creative Learning Toys is facing some tough realities and sharing those struggles with the store's supporters.

"It saddens me to say that I have had to unfortunately lay off my entire staff. Our sales have plummeted in recent months compared to last year at this time," store owner Shawn Splint writes in a social media post.

Splint says he knows folks are suffering, just as small businesses are, due to economic conditions, inflation, and high interest rates. Splint says he has not collected any pay for two months as he struggled to keep staff aboard but "unfortunately with decreased customers with sometimes hours in between customers coming into the store, it is just no longer financially feasible to employ any staff."

Splint took over the well-known Main Street West business in August 2020, in the middle of the pandemic after previous owners Des and Gale Anthony decided to retire after 30 years. A former registered nurse, Splint continues to do charitable work that benefits the North Bay Regional Health Centre.

"I will be doing my best to keep the lights on for as long as I can, but I can’t do that without your continued support. Shopping local and supporting us directly allows us to stay open."

Splint says support doesn't always have to come in the form of spending money. He says telling your friends and family members about the store, sharing Creative Learning's Facebook and Instagram posts or leaving a comment on a post and writing a Google review are all gestures that don’t cost any money yet can have a positive impact.

"Places like Walmart and other big box stores will survive times like this but other small businesses may not," the post continues. "So, I am asking everyone before you click 'add to cart' on Amazon or anywhere else, check out our Creative Learning Toys site and see if we also have it in stock."

Splint says all of the services Creative Learning Toys customers have come to enjoy remain unchanged. Free gift wrapping, free local delivery, free shipping across Canada and the U.S. when you spend $99, the store's military discount, and Grandparents Day with 10 per cent off the last Thursday of every month will all continue. Creative Learning Toys also has a free loyalty program that gets you 2 per cent back with every purchase as a thank-you for returning customers. The store also has a wishlist, gift registries and the ability to choose the wrapping paper you want — all online.

"This is the 35th year in business for Creative Learning Toys and I would love to see it around for another 35 but I can’t do that without your support," he concludes.


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Stu Campaigne

About the Author: Stu Campaigne

Stu Campaigne is a full-time news reporter for, focusing on local politics and sharing our community's compelling human interest stories.
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