Kip’s Toyland: 70 Years of Slinkys, Scrabble and Success

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“My earliest memory of working in the store was when I was nine,” said Kip’s son Don (pictured here), who now runs the shop. “My job was tying string to the balloons.” Photo: Sheila Lane.

FARMERS MARKET—First it was FAO Schwarz. Then American Girl and now Amazon. But these evolving favorite-of-the-moment shopping outlets have been mere momentary blips in the history of Los Angeles’ oldest toy store, Kip’s Toyland.

In October, this classic toy shop will celebrate 70 years: that’s a couple of generations where they’ve witnessed, first hand, that wooden blocks, Monopoly, and Slinkys can endure today’s onslaught of Playstation, X-Box and Mine-Craft.

The shop was founded after Irvin “Kip” Kipper, returned from World War II, an experience in which his plane was shot down over Italy and he spent time in a Nazi prison camp. When the war ended and Kip returned to Los Angeles he vowed to spend the rest of his days doing something happy.

So he opened a store, across from Farmers Market. The store initially sold flags but when war-rationed rubber was finally available, Kip extended his product line to include balloons.

“My earliest memory of working in the store was when I was nine,” said Kip’s son Don, who now runs the shop. “My job was tying string to the balloons.”

Over time, the business grew, added toys to the mix and moved officially to the Farmers Market in 1956, right where Chipotle stands now.

Seventy years in business have brought their share of marketplace challenges many of which occurred in the early 2000s.

According to Don, when The Grove was being developed, the Kipper family was offered a new location for their store—a mere football field away from mega toy store, FAO Schwarz.

At the time, Don said he was apprehensive that FAO Schwarz, with all its oversized stuffed animals, props and life-sized piano keyboard, immortalized in the film Big, would threaten their traditional business model.

But Don said, Kip was never too worried and didn’t pay FAO Schwarz a whole lot of attention, even with his shop dwarfed by its very large shadow. The Kipper family, Don said, stayed focused on their own traditional business—offering classic toys to children—and FAO Schwarz eventually closed.

Then there was American Girl’s opening, also, at The Grove.

The way Don tells it, this also super-sized toy store with its offerings of look-a-like dolls and must-have birthday parties, only helped Kip’s Toyland.

“We see moms and daughters coming from all over the place [to go there],” said Don. “And it’s kind of nice because they bring the brothers in here for a little equal time.”

They’ve also felt the impact of Amazon, “but drones notwithstanding,” Don said, “We can beat them.”

Although Kip, 98, is retired now, he still visits the store to see Don and his granddaughter Lily, who is now an employee as well.

Bob Tusquellas, the owner of three family businesses that have thrived for many decades at Farmers Market said he has looked to Kip as a role model since he was a young boy.

“Kip is almost an iconic person in Farmers Market,” Tusquella said.

Celebration events for the 70th anniversary of Kip’s Toyland are being planned for October.

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