At the Toy Dept. in Pasadena, Calif., the motto is: “REAL Toys, like YOU remember.” The “YOU” in this phrase, of course, refers to the parents. And what owners Dave Brisbois and Steve Barr are trying to convey is that parents can give their children the toy experience they had: toys that, for the most part, are free of media tie-ins, electronic gadgetry and, in most cases, don’t even require batteries.
|"We wanted to do something
different and create a store with a retro-50s type of feel that both parents
and their kids could enjoy." — Dave Brisbois, Toy Dept.
"When you buy one of our toys, you have to play with it,” Brisbois told TDmonthly Magazine. “It does not play with you.”
This is the toy experience that Brisbois and Barr have wanted to create for the 12-plus years each of them has been involved in the toy industry. They have been involved in buying and managing at retail stores, toy design and manufacturing. They opened this store in April with the idea of focusing on traditional toys, including such classics as Etch A Sketch, Spirograph, Whee-Lo, Gumby, old-fashioned Barbie dolls, Erector Sets and Rock em Sockem Robots.
Brisbois acknowledged that the Toy Dept. doesn’t fit into one of the categories that most toy stores neatly fall into. “Typically, stores fall into three categories: the big box store, the video-game store and the educational toy store,” Brisbois said. “We wanted to do something different and create a store with a retro-50s type of feel that both parents and their kids could enjoy.
Of course, parents love the store, but children’s reaction has been most encouraging as well. “You might think that kids are so integrated into the video world that they would never be mesmorized by a Slinky, but they are fascinated by it,” Brisbois told TDmonthly. “Many people believe that kids are growing up faster these days, but it may just be because we’re skipping the kinds of things that allow a kid to be a kid. We think it’s important to promote curiosity, imagination and problem-solving. If we can help do that in our tiny way, then we’ve succeeded in what we’ve set out to do.”