SAN MATEO (KPIX 5) — An iconic toy store in San Mateo has announced it will soon be closing and loyal customers are returning to relive childhood memories and ponder what the future may bring.
Enter Talbot’s Toyland in San Mateo and you’re greeted by a massive Tyrannosaurus Rex. In one spot sits a giant tiger, in another an elaborate train set chugs along tracks. The dolls and toy cars fuel the imagination of the little ones and those who remember being little.
“Just the excitement of, you know, being able to browse the shelves and look and see what you like,” said lifelong customer Carol Palacio.
So, for those who came on Sunday to search the now-sparse aisles, it was hard to believe that after 66 years, Talbot’s is closing.
“You know, right around June we started noticing foot traffic was a little off,” said General Manager Keith Schumacker. “And we were hoping that the Christmas season would be enough to keep it going for another year or two and it just never happened.”
Schumacker, hired at age 15, has spent his entire adult life working at Talbot’s and says the pressures of real estate costs, minimum wage hikes and online competition have made it nearly impossible for independent stores to survive.
“The economy is great and everybody is employed and everybody is making money…but retail is suffering,” he said. “And I just, I’m sad to say it, but…it’s the retail apocalypse.”
Sean Durakov and his sister Tonya, who used to roam the aisles as children, came not to shop but just to say goodbye to this magical place from their childhood.
“It almost feels like I’m losing connection with San Mateo,” Durakov said. “It’s like, where’s my city at, you know?”
At six years old, Isaac Herwitz doesn’t have a lot of memories of the store, but he seems to understand what his generation may be losing in the name of convenience.
“Do you like this better or do you like shopping on the computer better?” he was asked. “I like this better,” he said, “because you can look and touch and feel.”
The general manager says an exact closure date hasn’t been set, but it will probably be sometime in late January or early February. Then the store, like the dinosaur at its front door, will soon be extinct as well, and for the same reason: because the world around it just changed too quickly.