Could This German Toy Shop Be World’s Oldest?
Germany’s oldest toy shop, Carl Loebner in Torgau, is targeting another title. Owner Jörg Loebner (62) has applied to the “Guinness Book of Records” for recognition as the oldest toy shop in the world.
The Carl Loebner toy shop in Torgau, Germany, has been owned by the same family since a Herr Loebner first began selling wooden toys in 1685.
“It always passed on from father to the eldest son. Like in a royal dynasty,” says the current boss, Jörg Loebner. The shop, currently housed in a quaint Renaissance building near the marketplace in Torgau, Germany, recently applied for the Guinness World Records title of world’s oldest toyshop. If it is recognized, Loebners’ would dislodge Hamleys of Regent Street in London, founded in 1760, from its global fame.
Torgau, a pretty riverside town, is already a favourite tourist destination because it is the place where Soviet and US military columns met up in 1945, closing a pincer around reeling Nazi forces. The current Herr Loebner has run the shop since 1988, as a list of proprietors in the shop shows. It was always clear to him that he would take over the shop from his father, Johann-Georg, the 62-year-old says. Even as a boy, he would help out behind the shop counter when it was busy at Christmas time.
Loebner carries around 13,000 items in his two-storey shop, ranging from a chewy sweet for 10 cents to a Lego building set for several hundred euros. But even this traditional shop now generates most of its revenue online, rather than from shop-based sales. “We send out 80,000 packages a year. That’s just the trend of the times,” he says.
Loebner likes to recall his early years as a shopkeeper under communist rule. “We worked just the same as we do today. But what was enjoyable was the inner calm that we had.” In an economy of constant shortages, the shop needed no advertising because the customers practically snatched the products out of Loebner’s hands as he was unloading them. “The only problem we had was getting the products. And now, the problem is the opposite, getting customers to buy the products.”
Loebner believes the shop’s long tradition also helps it to make sales online: “If someone has run their business for 331 years, they must be reputable.” As an additional indicator of quality, the shop wants to replace Hamleys at the pinnacle.
In Germany, there is general agreement that Loebners’ is the oldest toyshop in the country, but Guinness World Records has its own rules. Its London office has asked Loebner to provide full documentation proving the company’s continuous history as a toy retailer. Now it is checking whether this German toy shop can be awarded the title of “world’s oldest toyshop,” a Guinness spokesman said.
In May 2018, Joerg Loebner will hand on the family tradition. A counter on his mobile phone is already counting down the days until his 65th birthday. Then, he will pass on the shop to his son Ingo, 39, taking it into the twelfth generation.
Thanks to Birgit Zimmermann, dpa.