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“I don’t have, let’s say, plush toys,” he said. “Because what are you going to do, collect them? People over here like things that make your brain think, things that make you work.”
The business — centered in a community where it’s estimated that more than half the population is younger than 18 — is now thriving. The Hebrew Free Loan Society recently loaned Lipschitz $25,000 interest-free to help expand his shop into the vacant pharmacy next door. The local micro-lending not-for-profit organization began a targeted program five years ago to provide capital and entrepreneurship training to Brooklyn’s ultra-Orthodox communities, and is about to surpass $2 million in loans to Hasidic small businesses.
Lipschitz is focusing first on expanding to other Jewish neighborhoods, but he eventually wants to bring his toy stores — and his Wise Buys Boy — to children everywhere. He’s already on his way; a trickle of Hispanic customers from the neighborhood snapped up some of his more mainstream Fisher-Price items over Christmas.
His ultimate goal: to smoke Wal-Mart CEO Sam Walton in sales.
“He opened up his first store at 27 years old,” Lipschitz said of the Wal-Mart mogul. “I’m 27 now, and I’ve had a store two years already. So basically, I’m ahead of Sam Walton.” He sleeps with a copy of “Made in America” — Walton’s autobiography — in the top drawer near his bed.
Kristen Clark is a dedicated patron of abandoned buildings and senior centers. She writes and produces from her fourth-floor fire escape in Central Harlem.