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Mike Bretta said he thought about expanding his toy and collectibles store a year ago when a space opened up next door. But another business quickly snapped up the vacant location.

However, that business didn't last very long, and the space opened up again earlier this year.

Around the same time, Toys 'R' Us announced it was going out of business.

"I told my brother, 'I think we need to blow out a wall and get bigger,'" Bretta said.

So they did, growing to 8,000 square feet. They also saw it as an opportunity to change focus somewhat.

As its name implies, Toys From the Past deals largely in used toys and collectibles. You'll find plenty of Star Wars toys from all iterations of the movies, as well as old board games, movies, video games and tons of other stuff.

The store, which is in the Indian Village Shopping Center at 13th and High streets, has always carried some new items, too, including action figures from current popular franchises like "The Walking Dead."

But with the demise of Toys 'R' Us, which shut its doors in Lincoln and elsewhere at the end of June, Bretta, who co-owns the business with his brother, Dan, is planning to stock more new inventory.

He said the ratio of used to new toys in the store is about 80-20 now, but he is working on changing that.

"We're doing our best to get in some of these new toys, and I think by Christmas we should be about 60-40," said Bretta, who used to own another used toy store, Back in Time Toys, in north Lincoln about 15 years ago.

He said the Toys 'R' Us closing has been good for the 5-year-old store, not only leading to a boost in business but also providing opportunities with brands they couldn't get before.

For example, Bretta said he now has accounts with Hasbro and Mattel to carry some of their toy lines, and he's also talking to Lego.

"When Toys 'R' Us was open, small businesses like mine couldn't get accounts" with those brands, he said.

Bretta also took advantage of the Toys 'R' Us closing by buying fixtures, such as shelves and display cases, to help hold an inventory that has doubled in size.

The American Specialty Toy Retailing Association has predicted that thanks to the demise of Toys 'R' Us, 2018 will be one of the most successful years in recent history for independent toy retailers.

"We expect that as many as half of all regular Toys 'R' Us customers will likely visit one of the 3,500 neighborhood toy stores across North America in 2018, which would result in up to a 20 percent increase in revenues," the organization's president, Kimberly Mosley, said in a news release earlier this year.

Bretta said business has been good the past couple of months. Most of the store's customers are in their 30s and 40s, he said, but the increase in newer, more current toys such as Hot Wheels and Barbie dolls, has led to more adults bringing their kids into the store.

"It was well worth expanding," he said.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-2647 or molberding@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LincolnBizBuzz.

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Business editor/reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

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