When I tell someone that I’m a Los Angeles native, they’re always surprised. Apparently, it’s unusual for someone to be “from L.A,” and in a city that values things that are modern and new, it’s also unusual for places to last 75 years. Nevertheless, this month, Kip’s Toyland at the Original Farmers Market—the oldest toy store in Los Angeles—is celebrating that impressive milestone.
Irvin “Kip” Kipper opened the multi-generation, family-owned business in 1945, focusing on classic, tried-and-true toys that have been an essential part of the store’s identity for 75 years.
I have many fond childhood memories of this L.A. institution. Pancake breakfasts with my grandparents at Du-par’s (another historic L.A. spot) were always followed by a trip to Kip’s, where I agonized over the critical decision of which toy to choose. P.S. I almost always ended up with a new set of jacks because those super bouncy superballs had a way of getting lost. Still, the experience was never complete until I had checked every shelf.
Owners Don Kipper (son of Irvin “Kip” Kipper) and his daughter Lily Kipper have countless anecdotes about kids just like me who still search the aisles for classic toys like jacks, paddle balls, and hula hoops as well as Slinkys, etch-a-sketches, and Magic 8 Balls.
“We encourage people to take a trip down memory lane,” Don says. “[And] we don’t sell anything that you can plug in.”
That “nostalgia factor” has ensured that a visit to the oldest toy store in Los Angeles has remained a tradition for generations of Angelenos and visiting tourists, but it’s also served them well during the pandemic because people have turned to the simple comforts of classic games and toys.
Like all businesses, Kip’s has had to adapt its business model by selling toys online (for the first time ever), but by doing that, this L.A. institution has also created valuable opportunities for multiple generations to bond over classic toys while they’ve been quarantined under the same roof – and while the business has struggled overall, they did sell out of quarantine-friendly categories like puzzles.
“People come in and tell us how they were in our store with their grandparents,” Don says, “and now they’re bringing their grandchildren in.”
It’s nice to see a 75-year tradition survive in a city that doesn’t always prioritize history, and I’m definitely looking forward to taking my grandkids someday (after pancakes, of course).
Happy 75th Birthday, Kip’s Toyland! And many more.