Time to play

Mike Pembroke

Photo by Cathy Wagner

Creekside Toys, formerly Creekside Variety and Gifts, has moved from Longfellow Avenue to the Chico Mall just outside of Dick’s Sporting Goods. Owners Mike and Paula Pembroke opened the store with their daughter Courtney in October 2016, and changed the name last year. Paula went to cosmetology school and Mike studied history at Chico State. After that, Paula opened Sublime Hair Salon, which she still runs today, and Mike had a 40-year career with the California Water Service Co. After retiring, he wanted to try something new and decided to create a store with the values—and products—he enjoyed as a child. His four grandchildren, ages 1 to 6, are thrilled—“It’s like they never want to leave!” Check out their selection of vintage toys inside the mall at 1950 E. 20th St.

How does Creekside Toys distinguish itself?

We’ve made it so it’s a really friendly atmosphere and there’s a lot of displays out for the kids to come in and play with, and the adults come in and play with the toys, too. That was part of our philosophy, for people to come in to a friendly atmosphere, a small atmosphere, and they can come in and play and relax and have fun. I have a lot of people that come in the store and say, “Oh wow, I remember that from when I was a kid!” And that was kind of what we were after.

What’s the best part about having the store?

I definitely think it’s the customers. I mean, seeing the kids come in, and the parents and the grandparents, and seeing the smiles on their faces and interacting with them, that’s the best part. And seeing people relate to the products we’re carrying—a lot of them are vintage products that they played with when they were kids—that’s enjoyable also. And introducing those toys to the next generation, that’s really fun.

What are your most popular vintage toys?

Paddle Ball is one of the most popular. And we’ve got the Gyroscope—it celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2017. A basic toy, gravity in motion, it’s kind of in the science category, and I’ve sold a lot of those. Most kids don’t even know what they are, but once we’ve got one out, once it gets demo’d or their parents or grandparents know what it is, they love it. It’s just something really simple they’ve been making forever, but they’re still really popular once you show the kids what they are.

How do you like being in the mall?

The mall’s been great. They moved the train station down here [to this end] and they have kind of a kids area down here, they show their movies down here once a month … so it’s worked out really well.