Photo by Stefan Radtke
In 1985, after intense disagreement with his business partners, Barry Schwartz sold his shares in Bryce Audio, the consumer electronics store in Manhattan that his father founded. “My partners were idiots,” he says. “It’s hard to soar with eagles when you’re working with turkeys.” The store closed three years later.
For his next business venture, Schwartz made sure to partner with someone he trusted and respected: his wife, Linda.
It’s been a good match. The couple has owned Try and Buy Toy Stores in Pleasantville since 1993. “We knew we could work together,” Linda says. “We complement each other. I’m detail-oriented and sales-oriented. He’s financially geared.” Says Barry: “She hires people; I fire people.”
They became friends after meeting at a trade show in 1979, where Barry was representing Bryce and Linda was Sony’s third-ever female sales representative. They started dating after Linda took over as “unofficial sales rep” for Bryce, and the two married in 1981.
They moved to Westchester in 1983. Barry worked for a construction firm (post-Bryce), and Linda taught art classes in their house in Briarcliff Manor. But they wanted to buy a business, and eventually decided on a toy store. So, when they saw a PennySaver advertisement for Try and Buy Toy Stores in Katonah in 1993, they jumped at the opportunity, though they really had their eye on a second Try and Buy in Pleasantville. The owner quickly sold them that location as well. “We built the business on sweat equity,” Barry says, adding, ”It takes a long time to build a business, but just moments to destroy it.” Linda says, “Relationships can be like that, too. That’s why you have to work on it all the time.”
In 1996, the couple expanded Try and Buy to Bronxville. In 2004, they opened a hospital gift shop at Westchester Medical Center and added an ambitious e-commerce site, each of which they say was “a disaster.” They are now down to one store in Pleasantville and a significantly pared-down website. “It used to be you’d be competing with the store down the street,” Barry says. “Now, we’re competing with everyone in the world—big-box stores, Internet shopping, wholesalers.”