The Cabbage Patch riots of 1983

By Steve Cichon

Buffalo News photo

Calling the Cheektowaga Police into the Walden Galleria to calm the crowds of 1,300 people clamoring for Build-A-Bear was reminiscent of another nationwide meltdown over a toy– 35 years ago this Christmas.

1983 ad

“You’d have to have been in hiding not to know by now that the phenomenon of The Cabbage Patch Kids is going through the country like a brush fire,” reported Connie Chung on the Today Show back in 1983, when the Cabbage Patch craze was in full effect for that year’s Christmas shopping season that year.

Inside a Wilkes Barre, PA store, a store manager was wielding a bat to keep pushing crowds back.

The manager of one Hills store said, “People were knocking over tables, there were people in mid-air… it got ugly.”

In the Buffalo area, one of the worst scenes was at South Buffalo’s Gold Circle store on Seneca Street at the city line.

A reporter was listening in as a Hills employee answered the phone on Black Friday in 1983, and before even letting the caller speak said, “There inst a prayer of your getting one.”

Child World spent the 1980s as America’s second-largest toy store chain, second to Toys R Us. The three Western New York locations of Child World made the biggest such chain in Buffalo. All three stores were in now-defunct shopping malls, including the Thruway Mall, the Lockport Mall and the Summit Park Mall. The Child World chain folded in 1990.
Long lines at the Walden Galleria for Build-A-Bear. WKBW-TV photo.

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon is a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. writing about the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The storyteller and historian has written six books, worn bow ties since the 80s, and is the News Director at WECK Radio. A 25 year Buffalo media veteran, Steve's contributed more than 1400 Buffalo History stories to The Buffalo News, worked at WIVB-TV, Empire Sports Network, and spent ten years as a newsman and News Director at WBEN Radio. He's also put his communication skills to work as an adjunct professor, a producer of PBS documentaries, and even run for Erie County Clerk. Steve's Buffalo roots run deep: all eight of his great-grandparents called Buffalo home, with his first ancestors arriving here in 1827.