Shoppers descended on the Toys R Us store in Schaumburg Thursday looking for sales and bemoaning the imminent loss of a childhood staple after news the company plans to liquidate.
"It's sad because ever since I was little, this was the place to go," said Lisa Kozlowski of Carol Stream, who bought games and superhero toys for her sons, ages 2 and 4. "For them, not being able to have that anymore ... it's crazy."
The company said it's planning to sell or close all of its 800 or so U.S. stores in the coming months, affecting about 33,000 jobs. There are 24 stores in Illinois, including in Algonquin, South Elgin and Aurora, according the company's website.
The Schaumburg store's parking lot was full and the building was bustling with shoppers, but there were no out-of-business sales yet -- experts say discounts are expected in the next week or two -- and store employees had no comment, except to say Thursday's was a big crowd for the typically quiet store.
Nina Alteri of Schaumburg said she rushed over because of a rumor on social media that the company would stop accepting gift cards after Thursday. Toys R Us says it will honor existing gift cards, as well as its Rewards Dollars and Endless Earnings, for another 30 days.
"It's terrible that it's closing," Alteri said. "We all remember going to Toys R Us and Geoffrey the Giraffe," she said. "This is the one-stop-shop for toys."
Many shared their memories of the company on Facebook.
Susan Berry of Roselle said she got her first bike there and used to love the store's "wall of tickets."
"You'd grab a ticket for your video game or big item and then go to the counter to make your purchase. That was so exciting as a kid!" she said.
Tammy Zakos of Hoffman Estates remembered waiting in line for more than an hour when the original Power Rangers were the big craze in the early 1990s.
Former employee Ashley Curtice of Carol Stream said she worked at Toys R Us for almost three years after her mother worked there when she was a kid.
"I remember as a kid being able to 'test drive' the bikes and vehicles, and when leaving (I) used to get little boxes of toys. ... Toys R Us had everything you could want as a kid."
The company is likely to liquidate in France, Spain, Poland and Australia, and plans to sell its operations in Canada, Central Europe and Asia, according to The Wall Street Journal.
That was bad news to shopper Manuel Fernandez, a visitor from Spain who bought a teddy bear for his wife. Toys R Us "is very well known in Europe; it has a very big reputation in this sector, in toy selling," he said. "The first thing that comes to mind is the people losing jobs. It's pretty sad news."
• The Associated Press contributed to this report.