San Francisco’s Oldest Toy Store to Shutter After 86 Years

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The side of a toy store.

Jeffrey’s will close in the next few weeks. (Jeffrey’s Toys)

One of San Francisco’s unsung heroes on the edge of Union Square is about to hang up their cape for good. Jeffrey’s Toys, a toy and comic book store founded in 1938, once had seven locations throughout the 48 hills. Now, the Chronicle reports the final outpost at 45 Kearny Street in downtown will close “in a couple weeks” according to a Facebook post on the shop’s page. The business served as inspiration for Pixar’s “Toy Story,” and has been family-run for 86 years.

Items are 30 percent off as the store winds down, though finding customers might be a challenge even at such reduced costs. Matthew Luhn, co-owner of the Luhn family business, told SFGATE last month sales were down alongside foot traffic, and that there was even “an attempted stabbing of an employee who quit.” That’s at a location where rent costs $20,000 a month. Maybe the city is due to look at the economics of this situation like it did on the Embarcadero to much success.

A representative for the family would agree. Ken Sterling of Sterling Venture Law, an attorney for the family, wrote in a statement on the Luhn’s behalf that San Francisco leaders have their work cut out for them in revitalizing an area that once was full of shoppers and tourists. “The store has been struggling for a number of years,” the statement reads in part, “due to the perils and violence of the downtown environment, inflation, the decrease in consumer spending and the demise of retail across the world.”

It’s not a surprise to hear this news for those following the downtown decline drama of the last few years in the Paris of the West. Yet there may be a new iteration of San Francisco’s downtown, as there has been so many times throughout the city’s history, as longtime businesses fall to the way of those global trends Sterling wrote about. The historic Starlite bar is about to reopen in Union Square, and SoMa sees new life with Saint Frank Coffee’s second shop and a shockingly buzzy East Cut area near the Embarcadero. Still, it is always a heartbreaker to see a beloved emblem of the city go the way of the dinosaur. “The family is saddened it has come to this and we’ve explored all other options to try and keep the business going,” the statement reads in part.

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Paolo Bicchieri

Paolo Bicchieri

Paolo Bicchieri (he/they) is a writer living on the coast. He's a reporter for Eater SF and the author of three books of fiction and one book of poetry.