Kip’s Toyland celebrates 75 years of good, old-fashioned fun

| October 28, 2020 | 0 Comments

PROPRIETOR Don Kipper with his daughter Lily, buyer and store manager.

Five years ago, I wrote the Larchmont Chronicle’s article celebrating Kip’s Toyland’s 70th anniversary. It’s now five years on, and life has changed quite a bit around the globe. But thankfully, not at Kip’s Toyland.

“We just keep trucking along,” says Lily Kipper, the granddaughter and buyer / store-manager of store founder Irvin ‘Kip’ Kipper, who passed away in 2016 at the age of 99. “We’re rolling with the punches because there’s no blueprint for this pandemic. But I will never let go of my grandpa’s legacy.”

And boy oh boy, what a legacy it is. Irvin Kipper was a U.S. Air Force pilot in WWII who was shot down in his B-17 bomber, the “Purdy Gerty,” (named after his wife, Gertrude) on his 26th mission. He spent eight months in a prisoner-of-war camp in Moosburg, Germany, dreaming of liberation.

OPENED in 1945 by Irvin “Kip” Kipper, Kip’s Toyland remains a treasured part of local childhood memories.

“While Kip was prisoner, he wore a ring that said ‘this too shall pass,’” reveals Lily, as if in secret. “And he told himself every day that he was going to survive and open a little toy store to bring families and kids happiness. It’s been a full circle rollercoaster, a wild ride, but I say that mantra to myself every day, and I know that this too shall pass.”

At that time, after the war, toy stores weren’t a “thing.” Kids found their toys in the toy section at the local hardware store. But Kip wanted to change that. “He was patient, cooperative and resilient…” writes Lily in a love letter to her grandfather, “because he had endured such an atrocity, he vowed to bring the same hope and love that kept him alive to everyone and anyone who would visit his toy store.”

75 years later, that legacy is cemented in the Los Angeles landscape. Grandparents who came to Kip’s as children then brought their children to Kip’s, who now bring their current small children to Kip’s.

And why do they keep coming back? The timeless toys, of course!

Batteries not required

If you’ve been inside Kip’s, you know that they are not big fans of anything that requires a battery or a plug. They fill their shelves with puzzles, Lincoln Logs, board games, science kits, etc. You know… things from your childhood. During the pandemic, these items have proven quite desirable.

“People are nostalgic for these old-school items that help people interact with one another right now,” observes Lily. “I even see my 30-something friends buying up the Jenga games to take to outdoor picnics.”

Working through the pandemic hasn’t been easy, though.

“You do what you do… we put one foot in front of the other,” says proprietor and “The One Filling the Big Shoes” (and Lily’s father) Don Kipper. “Nobody knows where we’re going, but somehow the world got through the 1918 flu pandemic, and we will survive this, too,” he says.

When Kip’s Toyland emerged out of lockdown in May, the store offered curbside pickup only. They are now fully open, masks required, minimal capacity, and have even done something that they never thought possible: they are slowly going online.

“We’ve always been very hesitant about e-commerce,” explains Lily. “A Target or a Toys R Us can order 600,000 Slinkys, while we order six. The cost is so much higher for us. But now that we’re in a pandemic, we understand that people don’t feel safe going out, so we bit the bullet and are slowly working to get our website fully up and running by the end of the year.”

This is not the first existential threat Kip’s Toyland has faced in its 75 years of operation. Does anyone remember the giant F.A.O. Schwartz at the Grove, just a hundred yards from Kip’s?

“It was like David and Goliath,” remembers Don.

“That was one of my grandfather’s biggest challenges,” says Lily. “But he said, ‘people know we’re here and they will come. They are loyal and they count on us, we are a dependable store.’”

“Dad was once interviewed by Steve Lopez of the L.A. Times,” remembers Don, “who asked him, ‘do you ever go into F.A.O. Schwartz?’ My dad replied, ‘No, I never saw the need to!’”

“We’re the underdog,” states Lily unequivocally. “Who thought the little guy would prevail? Who knew that the big toy store with the huge teddy bears would be gone, and that we would keep trudging along?”

Lily and Don are both thrilled that their “little toy store that could” has survived multiple downturns over the years, and they are quick to point out the importance of shopping at small businesses.

“People are really starting to engage and support the little guy,” says Lily. “They see that lots of places are going out of business and people are realizing how important it is to shop small. They don’t want to wake up one morning and see that their favorite little nostalgic store is closed and say, ‘Wait? They’re gone? What???’”

Even with today’s uncertainty, Lily and Don feel good about their current situation, all because of one absolute constant in life:

“Sometimes…” says Don, “kids just need to play.”

Kip’s Toyland
The Original Farmers Market
6333 W. Third St., Stall 720
Los Angeles, CA 90036

Tags: ,

Category: Entertainment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *