Paul Dini (kingofbreakfast) wrote,
Paul Dini

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Great Toy Store

Every now and then you look back at some treasured place from your youth and discover it either no longer exists, or worse, has been changed so thoroughly it no longer has any resemblance to what you once loved. That was almost the case with Mr. Mopps, the great Berkeley neighborhood toy store. I went to Mr. Mopps once a month when I was a kid, and every other week when I hit my 20's. By then I was working at Skywalker Ranch where my Yogi Bear-like raids on the Lucasfilm toy bays were met with curiously sour humor. Fortunately there was Mopps, just a hop across the bay to fulfill my action figure addiction. Mr. Mopps was on the way out last year, but happily rescued by a nice young couple who look like they really should be running a toy store. Next trip to the Bay Area, I am sooo there. And yes, they have an awesome kids book section.
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This is indeed good news.

The last place that looked like an individually-run toy store that I saw - and emphasis is on looked like - was F.A.O. Schwartz. There used to be one in Orlando, in the International Drive tourist area. Unlike the big-box stores, it had more than the TV-advertised, standard-brand toys. Of course they were all overpriced, and unaffordable for regular people, but there were things I'd never seen before and will never see again.

For a couple of years after the place closed, the giant teddy bear and toy soldier sculptures remained outside the empty building. It looked like the kind of place The Joker would use as an operations base. Maybe they were hoping the place would magically come back to life, somehow. Kind of the way people were hoping the American economy would come back to life, and just as childlike a wish.

That's the odd part about it. A parent wanting to buy toys for her kids would look at Schwartz, see a few price tags, and head straight to Evil*Mart. It really didn't serve the public, only an elite. But it was a beautiful place, with a room dedicated to every possible variation of Barbie, and 11-inch high G.I. Joe dolls based on the original toys. It was kind of like the Palace at Versailles; beautiful in itself, created through unfortunate means.

Yeah, toy selling has become a game almost exclusively run by the big box stores. First is Toys R Us, which engulfed Schwarz (and still operates their one location in NYC) then Target, Wal*Mart, K-Mart, Meijer, etc. Schwarz, always known for their pricey mark-up, used to put stores in fancy shopping area where the clientele didn't mind paying a two to four buck mark-up for toys sold for less at the chain stores. Of course, that was back in the 90s and early Oughts. Now local stores like Mopps are becoming rarer than great auks. They are still here and there, but again, usually in area where parents don't mind forking over a few extra bills for the thrill of going there with their tots.

I'll usually hit a store like Mopps if I can find one (I don't know of any in this part of LA, outside of comic stores for action figures) and if I am looking for something hard to find, I'll order it on line. I don't mind paying a little extra there as sometimes it will include shipping and I don't have to go down to the chain stores and fight with collectors when the chase figures come in.
Hello! ^^

Yadayadayada - great fan, loves the Ewoks, Batman Beyond, Dungeouns and Dragons, Starwars the Clone Wars - yadayadayada.

Bottomline is, I friended you, so welcome yet another stalker, Mr. Dini. This time a chick from Sweden. :) Hello~