IRVINGTON, NY — Our Small Business Spotlight shines a light on local businesses we may not know that well.
Business: New Kawaii — Toys, Games and Collectibles
Owners: Levy and Jen Vargas
Address: 1 Bridge St., Suite 105A, Irvington, NY 10533
How did you come up with the name? Our store name, New Kawaii, is inspired by the Japanese concept of Kawaii culture — everything adorable, appealing and endearing. We help shoppers find and share things they love, and introduce them to new things they will adore — adorable plushies, collectibles of iconic characters, classic and modern games and more.
Our New Kawaii logo features a traditional Maneki-neko named Enkai — a beckoning cat who welcomes everyone into the store.
We carry incredible kawaii plushes from Yummy World by Kidrobot, classic toy brands like Barbie, Hot Wheels and Disney, and amazing collectibles including an array of Funko Pop! Vinyl figures. We have a broad selection of baby toys, board games for all ages, anime figures and fun branded Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo items. And we bring people together for activities and events.
Why start a business in this town? Toy stores have become few and far between. In our experience with our own children, we realized how hard it is to get exposure to new interests and toys “IRL” rather than just online. We love the Irvington and broader Rivertowns community, and wanted to provide a space where families can find new interests together and people can bond over similar interests like Pokémon, Magic the Gathering or arts and crafts projects while making new friends.
What business are you in? New Kawaii carries toys, games and collectibles in Irvington. Founder Levy Vargas says: “I loved checking out the latest comic books, picking up a new pack of Magic cards and developing new D&D character arcs with my friends since I was a kid. I want to give that joy to others, and we hope New Kawaii will inspire other families to bring back game night, take up a new hobby together and share great finds and gifts with friends.” The shop opened this summer and is expanding to offer more events and activities in 2024.
What’s the most difficult challenge you’ve faced as a business owner? We had a “soft opening” this summer while we were getting our ducks in a row. Now, we’re focused on letting people know that we’re here, we’re open, and we’re ready to help them find great new toys, games, gifts and collectibles.
What’s been your proudest achievement since opening? We are thrilled about the connections we’ve been making in our community. We love getting to know our shoppers, and we’re starting to build a network with other established and up-and-coming retailers — especially in our 1 Bridge St. location.
There’s more retail and dining down here on the Hudson than people realize. We’re so excited to be a part of it while contributing to the development of a “Retail by the River” community on Irvington’s Bridge Street.
How does your business give back to the community? We were so proud to sponsor Irvington’s “Rocktoberfest” this fall. In addition, we donated popcorn and packaging to Irvington High School’s Midnight Run club to sell at the recent Haunted Hayride to raise money for the volunteer organization that distributes food, clothing, blankets and personal care items to unhoused New Yorkers. In addition, we’ve offered several Saturday morning sing-alongs this fall and will begin to offer more community events and activities as we expand in 2024. We’re also happy that we employ local students part-time.
New Kawaii’s hours for the holiday season now through Saturday, Dec. 23 are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.