After 33 years, the end of Main Line toy story as Pun's prepares to close

Joe Berardoni, the owner of Puns, shown here outside the legendary Bryn Mawr toy store, which is closing after 33 years, in Bryn Mawr, Friday, May 12, 2017.

The trains that chugged along the perimeter of the ceiling are gone, the tracks removed, the tunnels empty.

Also missing are the video games, the electronics gizmos, the G.I. Joe’s, Star Wars, Transformers, and other license products.

But those were never there in the first place. Pun’s Toy Shop on Lancaster Avenue in the heart of Bryn Mawr didn't carry them. Instead it looked for toys that required at least a little imagination.

And for countless kids who nagged their parents to take them there, Pun's was "the train store." 

“It’s odd to not see the train,” said Joe Berardoni, 65, the soon-to-be former owner of Pun’s, who made it his mission to play with every puzzle, scooter, and mechanical kangaroo crammed into this 1,500 square feet of  retail space.

After 33 years, Pun’s is closing, although it still turns a profit. Berardoni said he received an offer an offer for the building “he couldn't pass up.” He expects to be gone by mid June.

According to Berardoni’s broker, Jay Gordon, the Pun’s building was put on the market in early March, and received interest almost instantly. A woman's dress store will be replacing Pun’s.

“When the opportunity came, I had to do it.” said Berardoni. “It was the best opportunity for me and my family.”

Berardoni purchased the building for $250,000 in July 1996, according to county records.

Along with nearby Suburban Hardware, which closed its door after a century in business, Pun’s is about to become another Bryn Mawr landmark erased from Lancaster Avenue.

“What been happening is individual property owners age catches up with them, the family matures and they want to retire,” said Gordon.

Berardoni isn’t quite ready for retirement. He is considering going into toy “consultation” or something sales-related. But for now, he is adamantly looking forward to spending a Christmas season dedicated to family, uninterrupted by the holiday season so essential to a toy store.

“Of course I’ll miss the business, but I have a lot of babysitting to do,” said Berardoni, who has 10 grandchildren.

While Berardoni wasn’t Pun’s first owner, he was certainly a fixture along the Main Line, spending the last 21 years behind the counter, solving puzzles and wrapping gifts.

“If you needed a birthday gift, you’d just give a call and he’d have it ready for you all wrapped up, you wouldn’t even have to get out of the car,” said Amarilis Stricker, an employee of Pun’s for two years but a customer for much more.

“Kids are coming in upset because it’s their childhood, grandmothers are coming in saying, “Where am I going to go now?” said Paulette Fallon, a store manager.

Growing up in Haverford, Berardoni came into the toy business by way of selling cars. When the dealership he worked for was going out of business, his boss recommended him for a job managing the toy department at The Hardware Center in Paoli.

“He said, ‘A friend of mine is looking for a manager...Do you like toys?’”

“I always loved toys, a lot of people say that, but I had a special fondness.”

After 16 years at The Hardware Center, the original owner of Pun’s, Tony Moy, came to him about selling the business. Another offer he couldn't refuse. Ironically, Pun’s name isn’t a pun, it was Moy’s middle name.

Berardoni’s affection for toys was cemented in his youth. After being diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at 15, Berardoni spent two months in Bryn Mawr Hospital, with only one companion: a toy Labyrinth, a wooden box with knobs and a maze inside in which players twist and turn the knobs to get the ball on the other side.

The game caught the attention of the hospital’s staff, and suddenly Berardoni’s room at the hospital became very popular as doctors and nurses visited him during their lunch breaks to play with the Labyrinth, which he continues to stock and sell at Pun’s.

“I had a great love for toys, I found it fascinating and I still do to this day.”

For Berardoni, Pun’s has been a family operation as his wife, Terry, and their seven children have all played a part in working at the toy store.

“The Pressure is immense,” he joked.

Berardoni’s son, Joe, or “Junior,” started working at the store when he was 16 and stayed till he was 36. The father and son are so close that when Joe Senior was in need of a kidney transplant,  the younger Joe Berardoni stepped in to donate his kidney.

"He’s going to be sadly missed," said the younger Berardoni. "It was a pillar of the community.

"He put thought into the toys he bought.” 

jbarwick@philly.com

@JohnRyanBarwick

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