Rhinoceros, Where You Can Learn and Play
Shop encourages group play and try-outs on games.
Bernadette May flings open the door of her five-month-old shop on Kings Highway with a greeting you can’t refuse: Let’s play!
That’s just what visitors to the Rhinoceros Gamery and Toys will do. The shop is irresistible and if you begin to shy away from trying your luck at a game built around dice or cards or puzzle bits, May will step in with encouragement and simple hints. She is a very strong supporter of the “home rules” aspect of gaming, where you might start with the written rules and then adapt them to meet the level of participants.
May is emphatic that the shop, at 107 Kings Highway East, is not in competition with either The Happy Hippo, one of the borough’s longest tenants, or Jamaican Me Crazy, both within a block or so of her shop. “It’s good synergy here. One of us is bound to have whatever you’re looking for,” she said.
May, a Haddonfield resident for about two years, has experience in different kinds of retail business. She and her sister, Kate, owned a bridal shop in Jenkintown, PA. Her sister decided to turn the space into a toy store and named it Rhinoceros after a long-ago incident from her early school years. (Choosing a character to portray in a Thanksgiving play, Kate announced she would be a rhinoceros and held fast to her commitment to the animal. Now it’s a synonym for the stores’ owners’ dedication to encouraging children and adults to break free from tradition.)
This week, May was touting the fun soon to be available with Tenzi, a dice game that will be available in June. “It’s quick. It doesn’t take a lot of thought. It’ll be good for kids and adults and you can be noisy,” she said. “You just play it and have fun,” she said. She expects the game to sell for about $20.
Like many of the games available at Rhinoceros, all the pieces of Tenzi will fit into a coat pocket, lunch bag or briefcase.
She tries to concentrate her stock on items made in America and find many of the new items at trade fairs like a recent toy fair in New York City. You won’t find board games like Monopoly or Trouble or Chutes and Ladders here. “We concentrate on independent toy makers who encourage fun,” she said. “We hope to push people intellectually but it’s always for fun,” she said.
Play and fun are the themes for her shop, which also includes specialty items like clothing for children with special needs. May continues to teach and do technical writing and is involved in after-school enrichment programs in robotics and gaming.
The rear of the shop is an activity center, with sturdy tables large enough for six people. Children and adults are welcomed in to try out games, or to rent space for a social event. Both children and adults can bring their own refreshments. You can interpret that to mean tea and coffee, soda, or wine, with snacks or appetizers, said May.
The gamery area can be rented for small groups for a child’s party. An area in the rear accommodates food and the focus point of the party can be closed off with a fabric screen so the party-goers don’t interfere with the retail portion of the shop.
It also has a circulating library of games and puzzles. Membership is $30 a year and entitles members to take home two games at a time to try them out. Large puzzles must be returned assembled to ensure they remain complete.
Other options include simple beading and jewelry making along with instructions on knitting and crocheting. Again, May says, she’s not competing with shops that market quilting supplies and hand-spun yarns.
Rhinoceros, she says, is where a child or an adult can come to try out a craft to see if it’s a fit, and then move onto a specialty store to hone the skill. “We’re kind of a new beast,” she said.
Table time can be rented for $10 an hour during store hours. Players can try out new games or bring their own.
A Lego club meets weekly. A $5 hourly fee brings five scoops of Legos and club members, mostly 8 or older, offer suggestions of what to build. The discussion always involves some compromise, May said. A window display shows ships approaching an island because some of the club members wanted to construct ships, others wanted to make an island. Zombies populate the island, she notes, because second graders want to put zombies everywhere.
May hopes to soon to establish a MahJong group, with an instructor and a regular meeting time. "Similar to the Western card game rummy, Mahjong is a game of skill, strategy and calculation and involves a certain degree of chance," according to Wikipedia. "In Asia, Mahjong is also popularly played as a gambling game (though it may just as easily be played recreationally)."
A music teacher may be stopping by to work with children and adults who want to sing. “I’m not going to teach trombone here but I’d like people to think that music should be part of their life, and it’s not just for kids.
“I want this to be a place where you can come and use your brain, meet some new people and think outside the box,” she said.
Rhinoceros is open seven day a week. Hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Mondays through Thursday. Friday hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.
The shop's website is rhinocerostoys.com
Hours will be expanded in the summer.