Neighborhood toy store puts the fun in holiday shopping

Learning Express Toys believes children learn through play and the toy selection always has play value in mind.

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Christie Pate has finished some of her holiday shopping. She has purchased gift cards for her sisters-in-law, a bottle of wine for a friend at work, and ordered her mom a new smart speaker.

But when it comes to buying her three kids what they want for Christmas, plus gifts for her nieces and nephews, the only place this busy mother of three will go is Learning Express Toys. Thankfully, a new location recently opened in Kendall.

“There’s something truly special about Learning Express,” Pate said. “They have the best selection of toys and gifts, great prices and you can’t beat the knowledgeable staff and the in-person experience.”

For the past eight years, storeowner Cathy Bartel has operated one of the franchise’s top locations on S. Dixie Highway (US1) in Pinecrest. Now Bartel has brought this unique toy store to the Palms at Town & Country, and shoppers can’t seem to get enough.

This new store fills a void left by the departure of Toys “R” Us and brings to Kendall a customer experience you can’t find in any big-box retailer.

Bartel believes in knowing the customers and the community on a personal level.

“I want everyone who comes into Learning Express Toys to feel special. We are proud to be your neighborhood toy store,” Bartel said.

While Learning Express is a franchise, with more than 100 U.S. locations, each store is locally owned and designed with the neighborhood in mind. Bartel is from South Florida and a mother of two, and she believes in a special combination of high-quality merchandise, caring staff and excellent customer service.

“Whether a child is interested in arts, sports, tech, games or gadgets, we have the newest items and all the classics too,” she said.

Learning Express Toys offers holiday and birthday registries, free gift-wrapping, in-store pickup, plus special events throughout the holidays and all year long. Each of Bartel’s stores also gives back to the community — to local schools and charitable organizations through donations and special in-store events.

“Learning Express Toys is our family’s go-to place every birthday, holiday and special occasion,” said Kendall grandmother Natalia Garcia.

She has been shopping at the Pinecrest location for years and loves to see her grandchildren’s faces light up when they open a gift from Learning Express.

“I’m so excited to have this new store even closer to the house,” she said.

Learning Express Toys customers are busy parents, grandparents, and gift-givers who have choices as to where they can spend their money. From the time they walk in, the welcoming staff makes sure to help them find just the right item. And while they’re shopping, the kids can even try out the latest game or toy. The store is warm, colorful and organized so shoppers can choose from a wide selection of puzzles, games, toys, arts and craft kits, science, books, infant and toddler gifts, and even unique products for ‘tweens.

Learning Express Toys believes children learn through play and the toy selection always has play value in mind. Bartel prides herself on stocking the best-known brands and the hottest items each year so kids can find the toys they want. Competitive prices, the free gift wrapping every day, plus friendly staff keeps customers coming back. Learning Express Toys works to be a part of the family, and it shows.

“Learning Express reminds me of what it was like to shop for toys when I was little,” Pate said. “They help me find just what I want. I look for any excuse to keep going back again and again.”

For holiday hours, more information and details on special holiday events, including a visit from Santa on Dec. 9, check out the store’s Facebook page at

Locations: Learning Express Toys of Kendall, The Palms at Town and Country, 8210 Mills Dr., Miami, FL 33183, 305-270-1699, and Learning Express Toys of Pinecrest, Dadeland Plaza, 9529 S. Dixie Hwy., Pinecrest, FL 33156, 305-663-8699.

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