February 2015 Woman in Leadership
The Treehouse Toy Store, Co-owner
Gaetana Schueckler’s career plan was the sensible corporate choice: she graduated from Buffalo State College with a B.S. in Business Studies and worked for Bristol-Myers Squibb in Buffalo for 11 years. But something in her DNA said otherwise. In 1996, when she and her husband, David opened The Treehouse Toy Store they were searching for a way to be able to stay in Buffalo. Gaetana says, “Now looking back, I believe it was what I was meant to do in life even though I did not set out to be a small business owner. When I set-up a “gift shop” in my parents’ front porch and had my arts & crafts available for purchase… that was likely a sign of things to come!”
In starting business, there was no safety net, it was just the two of them willing to take a chance. And Gaetana says it’s still the same today as they face new challenges all the time. “Everyone says you must be passionate about the things you do in life. I am passionate. I drive my husband crazy most days because my mind is always turning and thinking about The TreeHouse and finding ways for this passion to shine through every time someone enters the world of The TreeHouse.” While David focuses on the technical and bookkeeping aspects of the business, Gaetana sources new toys, handles purchasing, and works with their employees.
She also acts as a mentor for The TreeHouse employees. She says, “Over the years, we have had many staff members who are with us for 3 or 5 years while they attend college. I try to instill [in them] that no matter where you are in life, YOU are always there and YOU are the consistent piece of the puzzle of life. For this reason, you must strive to do your best and learn all you can. I realize that most will not go on to run say a toy store but, I hope they take with them a “basket of skills” that can be used throughout their life. One of the best feelings is having former employees stop in when they are home for the holidays.”
Gaetana says, “A toy store should be a special place and my hope is that everyone leaves The TreeHouse with more than just a toy. It should be an experience and one that they want to come back to. For some, the toys we carry take them back to a special time or memory and for others being in The TreeHouse represents a place to create a new memory with their child or grandchild. I am fortunate to be able to share in these moments and be able to be a part of a child growing up.”
They are members of the Elmwood Village Association and are active members of The Good Toy Group, a national “cooperative venture to market creative, culturally sensitive, constructive playthings that promote happy, healthy childhoods.” Gaetana served on the board of The Good Toy Group for six years and currently has the position of product assistant for the association. The TreeHouse also supports various local groups and schools through donation requests and special events.