Charles Lazarus, the founder of Toys R Us, has died at the age of 94, according to a company spokeswoman.
Toys R Us issued the following statement Thursday:
There have been many sad moments for Toys”R” Us in recent weeks, and none more heartbreaking than today’s news about the passing of our beloved founder, Charles Lazarus. He visited us in New Jersey just last year and we will forever be grateful for his positive energy, passion for the customer and love for children everywhere. Our thoughts and prayers are with Charles’ family and loved ones.
Toys R Us traces its roots to 1948, when Lazarus, opened Children’s Bargain Town, a baby furniture store in Washington. Lazarus opened the first Toys R Us in 1957, and in 1965 Geoffrey the giraffe became the company’s mascot. He appeared in his first TV commercial in 1973.
Toys R Us dominated the toy store business in the 1980s and early ’90s, when it was one of the first of the category killers — big stores that are so totally devoted to one thing and have such impressive selection that they drive smaller competitors out of business. Lazarus, who remained at the helm until 1994, stacked the merchandise high to give shoppers the feeling it had an infinite number of toys.
His death comes as the company he founded prepares to start liquidation as part of its bankruptcy.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.