Toy Chest owner awarded Most Innovative Retailer of the Year


Hilary Key, owner of The Toy Chest in Nashville, has been awarded Most Innovative Retailer of the Year as part of the Toy and Game International Excellence Awards.

The TAGIEs, now in its 16th year, honor the most innovative inventors, designers, suppliers, retailers, marketers and PR teams in the international toy and game industry. Event sponsors include Disney, Mattel, Hasbro and ASTRA.

“It is a genuine honor to be recognized by my peers in the toy industry,” said Key. “Sharing my love of play is where I find my joy, and I’m so proud of the work that we’ve done at The Toy Chest to bring fun and creativity to people of all ages, and in creating a retail environment where everyone feels welcome.”

Key has a background in science, having graduated from Butler University with a triple degree in Chemistry, Biology and French. She pursued her graduate degree at Purdue in Neurobiology and realized after two years that the idea of practicing in the field did not hold her interest. Unsure as to the next steps to take, she spent a great deal of time soul searching and journaling, and realized that what she wanted was play. It’s what she was missing in her life, and was the integral component of what had made her happy in the past. As the oldest of four children, the oldest of her cousins, a babysitter and a nanny, she had always found joy in playing intensely and imaginatively with children. That realization led her to pursue her interest in the toy industry, quickly leading her to The Toy Chest as a place to start her learning journey.

Key took over ownership of The Toy Chest in 2014, after having worked there for a year in management positions. When the pandemic hit in 2020, she embraced the challenge and found ways to meet her customers’ needs. She adapted quickly and learned to adjust to the mindset change by creating custom mail order gift boxes to help people celebrate holidays, birthdays and simply fight the boredom. She also started making plans to create a new retail space that would welcome adults and kids alike, moving into the space earlier this year. The Toy Chest’s new location in a large Victorian home in the center of Nashville’s shopping district, is a distinctive landmark and is designed for exploration and fun for all ages.

With the main goal of promoting play across all ages, Key has a long history of innovation, which is why her peers have honored her with the 2023 TAGIE. From developing Project Play, a not for profit designed to bring toys to children, to starting BroCoCon, an annual board game conference, she is constantly finding new and innovative ways to bring the joy of play to others.

Founded in 2008, the Toy &Game International Excellence Awards (TAGIEs) celebrate the outstanding achievements of toy and game industry leaders from around the world, by honoring masters of innovation and invention. The annual event also pays homage to industry professionals who differentiate themselves with their spirit for fun, philanthropy, inventor advocacy, creativity and humanitarianism.

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