The Leading Path of an Entrepreneur: Sanford James ’20


Sanford James

Sanford James stands in front of his second location’s storefront. “Although, I haven’t personally visited Sanford’s store, it impresses me that someone my age is working towards creating a successful business,” said Andy Lee ‘20.

As a ninth grader at Bronx Science, Sanford James would not have imagined that he would open his first store before the age of 18. The thought of becoming a co-founder of a new retail concept store called “Toy Terrace,” would have surprised him despite the fact that entrepreneurship runs in his family. James followed the footsteps of his grandfather, who valued enhancing the guest experience, and opened the first air-conditioned restaurant in the capital city of the Philippines, Manila. He opened two “Toy Terrace Holiday Express” stores as well as kiosks in Long Island over the 2019 Black Friday weekend. 

As a child, James often took apart devices to observe how each part worked, and found it fascinating to discover how they functioned. He began tinkering with electronics after realizing that the components in a disposable film camera could be reused in another device. “When I used up the roll of film in my disposable camera, I wondered if the electronic components could have another life that didn’t involve a landfill.” The search for electronic parts for his next project led James to his local RadioShack store. Through this process, Sanford and his brother Lance found a mutual interest in electronics. Together, they started a media venture which expanded to include CCTV, commercial cinema and sound systems. 

One day, the James brothers bought a showcase to store their media equipment, a decision which took their media venture towards the retail industry. “We displayed our equipment, and joked about how it looked like a store,” said Sanford ’20. Little did they know, they would find an opportunity to open their own store a few years later, when the brothers were shopping for electronics at the last corporate RadioShack store in New York City. With the store closing in a few days, he learned that he could open a RadioShack Dealer store, an authorized business that sells and redistributes RadioShack’s products. That led James and his brother to open New York City’s first RadioShack dealer as a holiday pop up store, in a former Toys R Us express about a year later, using the profit from his previous media and technology enterprises. A year later, they opened a different store under their own brand, Toy Terrace. 

As society becomes increasingly reliant on technology, the rise of e-commerce has undermined traditional retail stores. Despite this trend, James remains optimistic about his own brick and mortar retail venture. He believes that he has created a store concept that can thrive in today’s retail climate by enhancing his customers’ experiences. “I’ve visited Sanford’s store once, and it made me feel almost like I was a kid again. It had the experience that you can’t get from online shopping,” said Ethan Gallagher ‘20.

James integrates technology into the store to create an immersive environment which builds off of the media ventures that he’s done in the past. “Our attention to detail and goal to create a great guest experience is at the core of our brick and mortar retail model. Linking our brick and mortar outlets to our existing e-commerce channels provides an unprecedented level of convenience to our guests, who can pick up their items that they buy online at their local store,” said James. He mentions the importance of creating a welcoming environment for customers as he does by using his technologies, fixtures, digital signage and configuring the music-sound system. When customers are purchasing products or simply looking around in the store, he expects to make them feel at home and feel as if they are in the “moment” and that they would want to return. “After opening these ‘Toy Terrace Holiday Express’ stores, my goal for our company is to continue creating a service-centric experience for our guests across all of our channels, and I believe that emerging technologies will continue to play a major role in that mission,” said James. 

Sanford James
“E-commerce poses as a big threat to brick and mortar retail stores because online retail giants are selling products at a faster rate for cheaper prices. It wouldn’t surprise me if many stores without strong have closed since the rise of e-commerce. Thus, I think Sanford’s store can survive if he builds good relations with customers and with suppliers for cheaper goods so that people will frequently purchase products from James even if prices are slightly higher,” said Andy Lee ‘20.















Sanford James
During the week before the Thanksgiving holidays, Sanford James prepares his second store’s opening. “That week, we had been working until 11 pm. I’ve definitely learned to manage my schedule and balance school work with my business. My parents are supportive and I am grateful for that,” said James ‘20.














James integrates technology into the store to create an immersive environment which builds off of the media ventures that he’s done in the past.