Remember when kids toys were powered by wind-up keys, cranks, and imagination? Nowadays we spend more time rummaging through the kitchen drawers looking for batteries to power today’s gizmos than the time kids spend playing with them. However, the glory days of kids’ toys have not been forgotten thanks to Cole Valley’s newest toy shop, Tantrum, which will transport you back to that first time you picked up a slinky, or listened to music on your Imperial record player.

If the name hasn’t already made you chuckle, (and what a clever name for a toy store) Tantrum will set you in a whimsical mood from the minute you gaze up at their colorfully decorated signage. It’s reminiscent of a carnival billboard, and the red and white striped window display will beckon you inside like stepping into the big top circus tent. Old showtunes crackle out from the tiny portable radio in the corner of the room as owners Amanda Weld and Michelle Spear greet you in their brightly colored outfits–all too fitting in this already colorful toy box. Step past the coin-operated seal ride and you’ll find yourself surrounded by the coolest collection of toys you’ve ever seen.

From here, you’ll probably get lost among the shelves and racks of toys, kids clothes, household products, and other vintage items. Everything carries a mid-century sense of nostalgia, and no doubt you’ll see at least one or two items that will make you say “I remember this!” In every corner of the room you’ll find hidden treasures just begging to be played with, and some pieces (like the church organ) are so masterfully crafted that you’ll hardly believe that it’s all for sale. You’re paying for quality vintage products here, so the price tags can be a bit expensive, but it’s all worth it.

With so much to take in, it’s easy to spend awhile wandering around this fabulous store, even if just to take a walk down memory lane to a place where magic and imagination are aplenty. We have a feeling that parents might enjoy this toy shop more than kids. Because Tantrum carries some fragile toys, parents should be wary of excited kids who want to touch everything. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty to see and touch–it is a toy shop after all!

Tantrum is easily accessible by MUNI, just take the N Judah line and get off at Cole and Carl. Once you’ve had your fill of toys, stop by for a scoop of old-fashioned ice cream at an equally cool vintage soda fountain that will have everyone licking their lips.

858 Cole Street
San Francisco, Ca

— Scott Wardell

All photos taken by Scott Wardell, except for the first (courtesy of Tantrum’s facebook page)

What to do nearby:

Navigating the California Academy of Sciences with Kids
Insider’s Guide to the DeYoung with Kids
The Best of Golden Gate Park
Playland at the Conservatory of Flowers