Who doesn’t love a local toy store? Customer service at these independent toy shops will blow you away and make you question why you ever set foot in a big box store before. Many have pivoted from their usual models to offer curbside pick up and online shopping while everyone is stuck at home. Shop these local independent toy stores of the Bay Area and start the birthday wish lists early this year!
As the owners state on their website, “We are designers, makers, shopkeepers, neighbors, citizens of the world and most importantly parents.” Umm..you had us at "hello." However, there's more. In true SF fashion, toys are organic, sustainable and fair-trade when they can be. Mapamundi Kids is a boutique bursting with coolness and creativity. The colorful, light-filled shop is stocked with books, toys, clothes and accessories for lucky kids and their design-minded parents.
1306 Castro Street, San Francisco
COVID-19 Update: Shop is open for browsing. All persons must wear a mask. Curbside pick-up and delivery is also available.
If Mapamundi had a soul sister, Tantrum would be it. Tantrum offers a unique carnival-themed shopping experience. They offer a wide variety of books, clothes and toys with a vintage slant. You will want to spend hours browsing their brilliantly-curated selection of local artists as well as boutique European brands. You might find yourself walking out with a toy for yourself and your little one. Pro tip: They also have a location in Cole Valley.
248 Clement Street, San Francisco
COVID-19 Update: The Cole Valley location is currently closed. The Clement street location is available for browsing, curbside pick-up and/or delivery.
What began as a Five & Dime store in 1938, has blossomed into the oldest toy store in San Francisco. Jeffrey’s Toys has been a family-run business for over 60 years and is named for the owners’ youngest son, Jeff. Right off of Maiden Lane, their store is centrally located for those times when you’ve shopped too long, and your trusty companion needs a break (and so do you, frankly). Jeffrey’s is a great store for browsing or finding that LEGO set you’ve been looking for all over town. Pro Tip: For any Stan Lee fans out there, bring your comic-book obsessed child to relish the "comic corner".
45 Kearny Street, San Francisco
COVID-19 Update: The shop is closed until further notice. Support them when they open back up!
Opened in 1962, this longtime institution is known and beloved all over the Bay Area. The owners boast that they are a unique toy store that does not carry TV or movie licensed products, but instead try to remain more old school. (Can I get an amen?) A Red Tri Totally Awesome Award Winner, Mr. Mopps is a truly magical place, filled to the brim with toys, stickers, books, every stuffed animal of the under the sun and even party supplies. Pro Tip: Your budding author can get their groove on just four doors down at Mr. Mopps' annex bookstore.
1405 Martin Luther King Dr, Berkeley
COVID-19 Update: Closed until further notice. Curbside pick-up may be available. Call for more information.
Nestled in the cute little neighborhood of Montclair is the oldest family-owned toy store in the East Bay. Since 1969, they’ve been showcasing their exotic plush toys plus free gift wrapping to win over the young and younger at heart patrons. Monclair Toyhouse prides itself on its extensive selection of classic and current toys, and the staff is always warm and welcoming.
6115 La Salle Ave, Oakland
COVID-19 Update: All persons must wear a mask. Number of people in the store is limited and curbside pick-up is available.
Located in Alameda, Toy Safari is a paradise for the whole family. Besides offering the very latest and greatest, Toy Safari also buys and sells toys and collectibles. The back of the store is a stroll down memory lane with displays of Transformers, LEGO bricks, and other 90s favorites. You might be tempted to finally complete your collection of action figures. Family-run for over 25 years, this is a must-stop-by-and-shop kind of place.
1410 Park Street, Alameda
COVID-19 Update: Although this store is currently closed to browsing, according to their website “every Friday we will be putting out gifts for children, in front of the shop.” Any orders may be placed over the phone for curbside pick-up or delivery.
Peninsula and South Bay
Owner Sloan used to run through the aisles of the original Wooden Horse in Old Town Los Gatos, wishing she could buy the whole store. Her wish came true when she and her husband decided to do just that and now they run their shop with love and care for every kid that crosses their threshold. They even host free workshops for parents, teachers and students to learn about the value of play. Check out their extensive collection online for the holiday season.
796 Blossom Hill Rd, Los Gatos
COVID-19 Update: Now open for in-store shopping, curbside pick-up and delivery. All persons must wear a mask.
This toy store has been bringing joy to the little ones, winning awards and supporting the community of Menlo Park since 1999. From bath toys to school supplies, travel toys, collectibles and little critters, there isn’t much more a kiddo could wish for here. Be sure to check the store calendar for their story time events. If Menlo Park feels too far, check out their website, which also has an impressive selection.
640 Santa Cruz Ave, Menlo Park
COVID-19 Update: Now open for in-store shopping. Curbside and delivery options are available. All persons must wear a mask.
Marin and North Bay
Five Little Monkeys
Bring all of your monkeys to this sweet little toy store in the Corte Madera outdoor shopping mall. They have everything from LEGOs to Bruder to Fat Brain to the ever-popular Melissa and Doug. There are several locations of this store, so if the North Bay is inconvenient for you, check out their East and South Bay locations. Pro tip: Still need to let the wiggles out? Let your kids explore the play areas in the shopping courtyard.
131 Corte Madera Town Center, Corte Madera
COVID-19 Update: Curbside pick-up and delivery options are available and preferred. To browse you must either make an appointment. Walk-ups are allowed but the number of people in the store at once is limited. All persons must wear a mask.
A Child's Delight
Since 1994, this toy store has been bringing smiles to children’s faces with their wonderful collection of toys, games, books, puzzles, or anything else their hearts’ desire. After 17 years in business, they’re known for their personable customer service and for having lots of toys out for the kiddies to sample. If you run out of time, or your kids lose interest too soon, fret not, they have an extensive website for your perusal.
105 Corte Madera Town Center, Corte Madera
COVID-19 Update: Curbside pick-up and delivery options are available. Browsing is permitted. All persons must wear a mask.
—Jennifer White & Anita Chu
Featured photo: iStock