About Us

Family Fun, Family Run, Since 1978

Our Story

Our store, and our story began in 1978.

As with any good story telling, the listener often has lots of questions along the way, and so we've found that the best way to tell the story of G.Willikers! Toy Shop would be to answer the questions and curiosities that our friends and customers have wondered about for some 30 years now!

We delight in answering these questions, because it reminds us that our customers not only come to us for toys, but a whole lot more…

Who is Mr. Willikers?

This is one of our favorite questions! Like many good stories, ours too has a bit of a mystery to it!

Mr. Willikers has actually never been seen by any of us, but our family has playfully named him "Mr. G." or "Uncle George". We have come to know that he has an elusive and jovial nature. In fact, sometimes there are presents left under the Christmas tree from Uncle George. He loves a good surprise!

Who started G.Willikers?

In 1978 Jill and Ernie Breneman opened the doors of G.Willikers! on 13 Market Street in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Ernie and Jill were by nature an entrepreneurial and creative couple. Among their many and varied careers, Ernie was an advertising agent, and Jill worked in an elementary school library. Both shared a love of antique toy collecting. In 1978, these experiences and interests turned out to be the perfect fit for their new business adventure. At that time, their children, John (age 16), Bob (age 14), and Jody (age 11) helped to grow the family business, but were mostly busy growing up.

While all three of the Breneman kids worked in the store on and off over the years, Bob took on a major role in the business in 1989, offering a fresh business sense, introducing his desire to carry a broader range of products and shifting the focus from children's clothing to children's toys. Bob continued to build the business with new locations and innovative ideas for nearly a decade, when Jody joined him in 1998 as a new mother with a strong desire to carry on the family tradition.

Both inherited not only a family business from their parents, but their entrepreneurial spirit and love of great ideas as well. Jill, Bob and Jody are now the proud co-owners of G.Willikers! Toy Shop. Most days you'll see one or more of them working at the store when you visit, and on occasion, you'll see the third generation at the cash register, or stocking the shelves!

To truly complete this family story however, we simply can't end here! G.Willikers! has a large extended family of dedicated staff members, some of whom have grown this business with us for over two decades, and some of whom have literally "grown-up" with G.Willikers! We wouldn't be here today with out their devotion. They are all part of the G.Willikers Family!

Where does the name G.Willikers! come from?

As the story goes, Jill and Ernie enjoyed "toying" with new ideas, and delighted in "playing with words". The perfect combination for the perfect name... G.Willikers!

In an early interview about their new business, both Ernie and Jill remembered what led them to naming their store. "The original Victorian expression, 'Gee Willikers'," Ernie explained, embodies the whole idea of excitement and joy and surprise that we wanted to evoke. Just having a name like that has kept us on our toes! And Jill remembers, We thought of G.Willikers on one of those punchy nights when you just stumble across the right thing".

Well, they may have been stumbling, but they sure kept the business on its toes!

Are you part of a chain? I've seen other G.Willikers Toy stores

This is perhaps the most popular question from our newest visitors. While we have heard about other G.Willikers stores throughout the states, we're proud to say that we are the Original! We are truly your "Mom and Pop", family-owned, family-operated independent specialty toy store! That's a mouthful, but it's true!

While over the years we have had several locations, stretching from Perkins Cove in Maine, to Newington and Barrington in New Hampshire, our stores have never been part of a chain, but have always been part of a family tradition. For 30 years now 13 Market St. Portsmouth, NH has been our Parent Store, and today, it is where we do all of our business. For our family it has become not only an important part of our livelihoods, but it has become a landmark for our family story.

Can I really play with the toys at G.Willikers?

Of course! This is where you come into the story! Whether you come into G.Willikers! to play or to shop or to do both, you'll see we are a hands-on toy store. Each day we hear stories, about childhood memories, milestones and celebrations. Your stories become part of ours, and we hope we become part of yours! We think we have. In fact, to many families we are The "Train Store!" or "The Marble Roll Store!" To others we are "Bob's Store", and to a few, we are "Mommy's Store". You name it! Really!

One of the many joys of being in business this long is watching our customers grow up. Some of our very first customers are now returning with their children and grandchildren and starting new chapters in their lives!

And we're looking forward to many more chapters and decades to come!

the end