The toy emporium that Charles P. Lazarus envisioned has been reduced to dusty floors and empty shelves.
Much has been said about the demise of the toy empire, which this week announced its plan to liquidate. There have been fingers pointed at corporate raiders, Amazon and big-box stores. All contributed to its undoing.
Ultimately, though, Toys R Us' collapse is a story of loyalty run dry. The store in its early days fostered devotion from customers and toymakers. In the end, it lost hold on both.
Toys R Us' status as the most important toy store in town left it cavalier, if cocky at times, according to conversations with former employees, executives and industry insiders, who spoke to CNBC on the condition of anonymity. It didn't invest in its stores, even as it was adding to the fleet, leaving it vulnerable when new competition moved in.
The story begins with Lazarus, the store's visionary who wanted the "R" written backward — an ode to childlike scrawl. Lazarus, who has been described as one of the great merchants of his time, expanded a baby furniture store he owned into a toy store. By 1978, he had created a toy superstore large enough to become a public company.
In its heyday in the 1980s and 1990s, it was the most important toy store in the country, if not the world. Its strength grew as competitors Kiddie City and Child World went out of business.