March 22 (UPI) -- Toys 'R' Us founder Charles Lazarus died Thursday at the age of 94, a week after the chain he founded announced the closure of all of its stores in the United States.
Toys 'R' Us confirmed Lazarus' death in a statement shared to Twitter Thursday afternoon.
"There have been many sad moments for Toys 'R' Us in recent weeks, and none more heartbreaking than today's news about the passing of our beloved founder, Charles Lazarus. Our thoughts and prayers are with Charles' family and loved ones," the company said.
Lazarus died in Manhattan, N.Y., Michael Goldstein, the company's former chairman and a close friend of the founder, told Fortune.
Lazarus was born Oct. 4, 1923, in Washington D.C. and opened the first Toys 'R' Us in nearby Maryland in 1957 at the age of 25.
He was inspired to open a store that sold baby carriages, cribs, and bassinets after hearing his friends discussing plans to get married and have children as he returned from World War II in 1948.
He modeled the toy store chain after supermarkets, borrowing the concept of long lanes of products and carts for customers.
While he served as CEO of the company until 1994 and chairman for an additional four he emphasized dependency, mandating the 18,000-plus toys for sale at any time were the same at each store.
"There's an enormous opportunity in America if you're willing to make a commitment to inventory," Lazarus said.
Lazarus was also responsible for creating the chain's mascot Geoffrey the Giraffe and the trademark backwards "R" in the store's name, meant to "give the impression that a child wrote it."
CEO of California-based toy company MGA Entertainment Isaac Larian launched a crowdfunding campaign Thursday to save Toys 'R' Us after the company announced plans to close all of its U.S. stores.
Larian and other investors have pledged more than $200 million and are seeking to raise another $800 million through a GoFundMe campaign under the name #SaveToysRUs to make a bid to acquire "some Toys 'R' Us assets through the bankruptcy process."
Larian is also offering toys from his various toy lines to people who donate, including special edition Num Noms for those who pledge $50 to $99, a special edition L.O.L Surprise toy for a donation of $100 to $499 and a special edition Little Tikes Cozy Coupe for donating between $500 and $999.
Other donation incentives include #SaveToysRUs bumperstickers, pins and magnets, an "I'll ALWAYS be a Toys 'R' Us kid" T-shirt and a tour of the Little Tikes factory.
Toys 'R' Us formally announced it had begun the process of liquidating and closing its stores in the United States last week when it asked a court for approval to sell off inventory in all 735 U.S. stores.
The company's international operations in Australia, France, Poland, Portugal and Spain said they were also "considering their options" in light of the liquidation announcement.
Employees said the U.S. store closings could affect as many as 33,000 jobs.
When the news was first announced, Larian said "there is no toy business without Toys 'R' Us," and expressed interest in buying up to 400 of the company's U.S. stores to operate under the Toys 'R' Us name.
"It's a big deal and I'm going to try to salvage as much of it as possible," he said.