Toy Dept.

It was one of those days when I seemed to be late for everything. I dashed off to Pasadena to pick up a gift for a last minute wedding, ended up taking a circuitous route driving west on Colorado Bl.*, when my eye was caught by a giant Rock'em Sock'em robot in a store window. I almost missed it, and only caught the word “TOY” in the rear view mirror. Running late or not, it was a LATDA imperative that I round the corner and go back to check it out, promising myself I would only allow a 20 minute detour.

What I found was the Toy Dept. (slogan: REAL toys, like YOU remember!) The Rock’em Sock’em Robot was centerpiece to a good old fashioned merchandising display of boxes of Mattel’s redux version of the classic toy. The other window featured a supermarket cart full of Funko bobblehead dolls. Rather than the blare of tweaker/rap/rock or the blah of the Wave, as I walked through the door I was greeted by the perky and familiar strains of Looney Toons music and mid-century toy commercials.

The YOU in the slogan was definitely me, judging by the demographics of the rest of the patrons walking wide-eyed and gob-smacked down the length of the store. But I don’t think I remember any toy store being this nice when I was a child. This was the toy store I imagined I remembered. (See my blog entry for 2/24/04)

There was a man in the process of stocking shelves in the very back of the store. The last ten feet of the store had the air of not quite being finished – as if the paint had only just dried. I extended my hand and congratulated him on a job well done. I ‘interviewed’ “Uncle Dave” (I forgot to ask his last name…and it only says “Uncle Dave” on his card) at length and was impressed by his vast experience in the toy world. He certainly looked younger than most of the people in the store (including me) and hardly seemed old enough to have developed such a keen eye for nostalgia. He and his partner (whose name I neglected to collect – remember, I was late for a wedding) designed every aspect of the store down to the custom shelving. They even fabricated much of it themselves. They made the Rock’em Sock’em Robot in window out of salvaged gatorfoam board from some discarded promotional displays.

As Dave said, they wanted to make a toy store that was not merely an electronics store. They have drawn on the classics, stocking as many items in their historical packaging as are available. Mixed in are newer toys that require the same play value as the classics – hand manipulation, humor, team play, and imagination.

I need to go back to peruse the selection more carefully. But I didn’t walk away empty-handed. I bought a pair of wind-up battling sumo wrestlers…a cultural spin on Rock’em Sock’em.

*the address is 255 East Colorado Blvd., Pasadena (626) 396-9487