Irvin “Kip” Kipper, owner of Kip’s Toyland, is a legend in the toy store industry. Kip’s Toyland is one of the few remaining independently owned toy stores in California. Kip’s is also one of the most enduring shops at the Original Farmers Market since opening in 1956. It’s a rare day, even now, when Mr. Kipper isn’t behind his counter, cheerfully greeting the third generation of his early customers and helping them, like he helped their parents and grandparents, select just the right toy. He and his wife Gertrude have two sons, Don and Robert, and four adult grandchildren.
“I started in the toy business after World War II. That was 1945. My wife Gertrude and I decided it was time for me to go out on my own rather than work for someone else. At our age, we thought that something related to children and the growing up of children was what we wanted. We found a little operation which we bought. It was a small store that we converted into a toy store. And it seemed to work, right from the start.”
“The biggest joy of being in the toy business is that I relive almost daily pleasurable things. I’m pretty good at spotting a good toy. The perennials are the Hoola Hoop, Slinky, Candyland, Monopoly, Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs and Legos. I choose toys like this because I know kids can learn how to follow a pattern, create what they see pictured and that’s great. I just feel lucky to have been involved all these years, selling these kinds of toys.”
“We have no electronic toys in the store because I was never one who thought staring at a tube was the right way for a youngster to develop his or her instincts and coordination. My favorite toy is called the Wheelo. It’s a wire contraption that you manipulate and control by turning it at certain angles to make it speed up and slow down. Here’s a toy that a child holds in his or her hand and watches what she or he can do, depending on how they turn it. That’s one of my favorite toys because it does what I think toys should do. It encourages the child and helps him or her learn.”
“I also like building toys because I remember, as a boy, how great it was to see a picture of something in a manual, take the piece required and attach it. Finding that hinge and putting where it belongs. I’ve always thought that was great. I always try to analyze the toy and make sure it fits what I like to be sold in my store.”
“My advice to a young entrepreneur is do something you like, if you can. Know that you’re going to have to work long and hard hours. Know that you’re going to have to put with things that are not always pleasant. But keep a good head and pretty much don’t do anything wrong. Let your conscience be your guide and soon you’ll know the ropes. It’ll come to you. Do the right thing and you’ll be fine.”
“It’s been a great ride, it’s been a wonderful way to earn a living. It’s a great way to raise a couple of boys and put them through college. And here I am, so lucky to where I am with a wonderful wife. We are both very lucky people.”
Kip’s Toyland, open M-F, 9 AM – 9 PM, Saturdays, 9 AM to 8 PM, Sundays, 10 AM to 7 PM. 323-939-8334