Charles P. Lazarus, who founded Toys ‘R’ Us over 70 years ago died Thursday at age 94, a week after it was announced the chain would be going out of business. He started the company in 1948 when he was 25. Lazarus anticipated the post-war baby boom would create demand for baby supplies and toys. He remained CEO until 1994.
After returning from World War II, Lazarus opened his first store, Children’s Bargain Town, a baby furniture store in his hometown of Washington, D.C. A couple of years later he began to sell toys when his customers started asking for them. Then in 1957, Lazarus opened Toys ‘R’ Us, a store that sold only toys. In 1965, the public was introduced to a loveable giraffe named Geoffrey, who became the company’s mascot, appearing in TV commercials with the memorable jingle announcing that we were all Toys ‘R’ Us kids.
Toys R Us confirmed Lazarus’ death in a statement.
“There have been many sad moments for Toys R Us in recent weeks, and none more heartbreaking than today’s news about the passing of our beloved founder, Charles Lazarus,” the company said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Charles’ family and loved ones.”