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WorkinCT: Playtime is almost over for Amato's in New Britain

They are selling the building to a developer who has designs on transforming it into a mixed-use retail and apartment complex.

NEW BRITAIN, Conn. — They’ve got game in New Britain, at least until the end of February. After 60 years, Amato’s Toy and Hobby, a mainstay in the community, has plans to close.

Owner Steve Amato has been at the family-owned business since 1974.

“It’s sad, it’s bittersweet for a lot of people," Amato said. "I’ve had a great run, I’ve enjoyed what I’ve done, but I’m 65 and the opportunity came along.”

Amato, who runs the store with his wife Sheri, said they are selling the building to a developer who has designs on transforming it into a mixed-use retail and apartment complex.

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“We’re not being forced out,” said Amato, “COVID didn’t put us out. We’ve actually had some of our best years of late…the timing was right.”

Amato’s – which is among the few independently owned toy and hobby shops left in the state – plans to close on Feb. 28. There is an Amato’s in Middletown, which is owned by Steve’s sister and is an entirely separate operation; the Middletown toy store is staying open.

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Famous for its array of electric trains and accessories, model toys, and board games, Amato said he will mostly miss his customers after his store shuts down.

“So many friends, so many people I’ve seen grow up,” he said. 

Danica Levesque, who has been a sales associate at Amato’s in New Britain for over 18 years, said, “It is the end of an era. You cannot find toys or things like this anywhere else -- it’s amazing.”

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“It’s one of a kind," Customer Robert Lee from Wolcott said. "It has things that you can’t find at a Toys ‘R Us or a Walmart or any place. It’s just a special place.”

As he walked the aisles of his 22,000 square foot store, Amato added, “This is so much of my life, my friends, so many of my acquaintances have come through here.”

Hundreds of well-wishers have left messages on the Amato’s New Britain Facebook page.

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