Mr. Mopps’ Toy Shop and Mr. Mopps’ Children’s Books just won a Totally Awesome Award for Totally Terrific Toy & Book Store in San Francisco. We recently spoke to them about their experience as a business owner, the best advice they’ve ever received and more. Hear what they have to say below!
Red Tricycle: Your community recently voted you “Totally Terrific Toy & Book Stores” – what do your customers value most about your business?
Mr. Mopps’ Toy Shop: I think it’s a combination of things. The environments we create are welcoming, we carry great merchandise at both shops, listen to great music, and we love what we do! That goes a long way in terms of customer experience. We really try to make sure that people are buying stuff that they and the children they are buying for love in contrast to just making a sale. Our customers often end up getting toys or books they didn’t even know existed, and that’s fantastic. Most of them also really like that the toys we carry aren\’t heavily branded, which encourages more open-ended, imaginative play, and that our book shop specializes in books with strong, diverse characters of all races and genders.
RT: What do you want people to know about your business that they don’t already know?
MM: We generally get a positive reaction from our customers about the selection that we offer, but I’m not sure that it’s something that many people put their finger on in terms of *why that is*. I think it mostly has to do with the majority of the products we carry not being gender specific and not tied in to movies or TV shows. Some people refer to it as “old fashioned”, and that’s the case with some of the products we carry, but I think that that impression is basically because people notice that we don’t carry much mass-market stuff. We aren’t Toys ‘R Us or Target or Walmart- partially because what they carry is so ubiquitous, but also because the mass-market companies off them way better margins, so to stay in business and attract customers we try to do something completely different than that.
RT: How did your business get started and what was the motivation?
MM: Me (Devin) and my wife (Jenny) took over the shop 6 years ago as it was closing down- it opened in 1962, and the former owners were getting old and needed to retire. I was a Moppster as a kid, and for better or worse, had a sentimental urge to try to keep it open. We weren’t in retail before (I was in childcare and she was a hair stylist), we couldn’t afford to buy the business, and we literally had no idea what we were doing. The whole idea was insane, but the stars lined up properly and we were able to do it, and do pretty well at it. I think *not* having a background in business mixed with naiveté and a love for kids and toys actually worked in our favor. It’s not just a business to us. I think people respond to that.
RT: Tell us, what do you start your morning with: 1. coffee 2. tea 3. mimosa 4. water 5. all of the above.
MM: Coffee! And loads of iced tea all day.
RT: What is the most awesome thing a customer has ever done for you?
MM: I think we have the best customers ever. Besides just being rad in the first place, we get hugs and high fives, thank you cards, holiday treats, postcards… Sweet gestures from kids and parents alike. It’s amazing. Not everyone loves us, but a lot of people do, and we love them right back.
RT: What is your biggest pet peeve as a business owner?
MM: People using our shop to find items to purchase on Amazon. The main reason Amazon offers discounts (some times even offering items at what we buy them directly from the company for!) is to run at a loss for tax cuts and also in an effort to put brick and mortar shops out of business so that in the future there is *only* Amazon. Meh.
RT: How do you keep your stress levels down?
MM: Ha! Well, There’s no shortage of stress between running these two shops and our 13-month-old son. I’m not sure how. I do get stressed, but loving my job and my family and our customers helps a whole lot. That, and I’ve been sober for almost a year and a half. No hangovers ever does wonders for my disposition, even in the face of sleep deprivation.
RT: What’s your secret superhero power as a business owner?
MM: I think probably kind of diagnosing what type of thing a potential customer may like. We do a bunch of exploration with them. “How old is the kid? What do they like? Are they artistic? Cerebral? Rough and tumble?”- that kind of a thing. The objective for me is to help whoever is shopping get something for that kid that they never knew they wanted, but may become one of their favorite toys or books. I mean, unless someone just wants a specific thing that we carry off the bat. Then I just hand it to them.
RT: Tell us, what is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received (as a parent or business owner)?
MM: Just that we can’t be everything to everyone no matter how hard we try, so to stick to our vision, be ourselves as an entity, and not compromise our integrity.’
RT: How about the worst piece of advice you’ve ever received?
MM: Ha. If I had a dime for every piece of bad advice we’ve gotten, I’d have at least a few dollars.
RT: Is there a special offer you’d like to include for Red Tricycle readers?
MM: If you come check out our shop, we’ll be your best friend. Or at least give you a high five if you want one.
Check out their website here.
Photo credit: Mr. Mopp’s