Blast from toys past

Mike Pembroke

Photo by Meredith J. Cooper

When Mike and Paula Pembroke decided to open a vintage toy store in a quaint, suburban Chico neighborhood, they envisioned a shop that carries toys with a purpose and meaning, ones that remind them of their childhood days. Mike recently retired from Cal Water Co., where he worked as a regional manager for 40 years. And he had long dreamed of opening a novelty toy store with his wife, who is part owner of a nearby hair salon. Their brainchild came to fruition Oct. 1, when the doors to Creekside Variety Toys and Gifts opened to reveal specialty vintage toys including spinning tin tops, wooden toys, prehistoric dinosaur collectible figurines, vintage Hot Wheels, the original and newer Slinky and Magic 8 Balls, stop watches designed by artists, eclectic games, select dolls, quality stuffed animals, learning toys, puzzles, gag gifts and more. If creating an old-time toy shop was their goal, they’ve certainly succeeded, as walking through the store is like venturing into yesteryear. Visit Creekside Variety at 1388 Longfellow Ave., Ste. 4, or find it on Facebook. It’s currently open only on weekday afternoons, but check ahead for expanded holiday hours. Mike recently took some time to discuss the store with the CN&R.

How did you come up with this concept?

Something was missing from what I grew up with. I wanted a store with easy access in a small neighborhood. I sell a little of everything. When I was little, I remember walking down the street to the toy store and buying something to play with.

Do you incorporate any skills from your past into the present?

Yes—managing, budgeting monies and talking to customers.

Who are your customers?

Moms, grandparents and adults buying for themselves. A woman came in and bought one of those for herself (he points to a self-painting kit complete with a paintable turtle and paint set).

What toys are most popular?

I’m bringing back “STEM” toys—for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. These are educational toys, and I want toys to get kids outdoors to play, and specialty dolls. Toy recycling packages to teach kids to recycle will be coming in soon. These are toys that Kmart and Toys R Us don’t have. I looked for toys that reminded me of when I was growing up.

Do you remember your favorite childhood toy?

Oh, yes. I remember playing with these metal cars [points to display case filled with small vintage cars and trucks].

Are you going to expand or get more stock for Christmas?

Yes. The orders are coming in. I want family-style board games. Growing a business is a learning process. It’s a challenge to figure out what to buy, picking merchandise and inventory.