Time to start your holiday Shopping
Talbot’s Toyland is a neighborhood institution in downtown San Mateo that has been serving the Bay Area since 1953. As we approach the holidays, we’re excited to profile Keith Schumacker, the General Manager of Talbot’s Toyland. Keith started working at Talbot’s when he was just 15 years old and has been there ever since. When Talbot’s Toyland started, the store was only 4,000 square feet, today, it’s over 35,000 square feet. Not only is Keith the General Manager of the iconic toy store, he is also partly responsible for the selection of toys that are sold there. Talbot’s has an extensive collection of toys, as well as a hobby department, baby goods, and a separate bike shop.
As Keith gave me a personal tour of Talbot’s on a sunny Monday afternoon, his love for the store, and especially for the fun they have this time of year was evident in everything he said.
Talbot’s is a local San Mateo institution. How long has Talbot’s been in business, and why did you choose to open in San Mateo?
Talbot’s Toyland was started in 1953 by Betty and Lank Talbot. The store was originally located in West Sacramento, but when Lank lost his lease, he researched the SF Peninsula. He chose San Mateo for two reasons. One, there was a vacant building on the corner of 5th and B Street that he could purchase. And two, he didn’t have to heat the store in the winter or air condition it in the summer.
What makes Talbot’s unique from other toy stores?
We pride ourselves on customer service. Our employees have years of experience recommending the perfect, age-appropriate toy for any occasion. We provide year-round complimentary wrapping on all purchases, and we also offer a layaway program, requiring a 25% deposit and monthly payments, with six months of interest free financing. Some of our items need assembly, and we offer that as well.
Are you doing anything special in preparation for the holidays?
We have extended hours in December to give parents the opportunity to shop while the kids are nestled in their beds. Once you make your selections, we can wrap them and store them upstairs in our warehouse for you to pick up closer to the holidays. That way the little ones can’t peek!
We also have Santa Claus arriving on a fire truck at 11am on Black Friday. It is truly a magical event. After Santa greets all the children and parents, he spends time talking with all the children as they get their picture taken free-of-charge.
Can you tell us about your special shopping events?
We offer a special two-week shopping fundraiser from Friday November 20th through Friday December 4th. During this two-week period, customers can mention a school they are associated with and at the end of the period, Talbot’s donates 10% of the purchases back to the school. We have donated over $100,000 to our local schools over the past decade.
Do you work with any shelters at this time of year?
We work with InnVision Shelter network. The children get to pick out a couple of toys from a catalog we provide, and we wrap them and deliver them to the Carolands Mansion in Hillsborough. On a special night in December, the children arrive at the Chateau on buses and get to participate in activities such as making ornaments, decorating cookies, watching a magic show, and having their pictures taken with the Giants’ World Series Trophies. Their last stop is a visit with Santa where he gives them the gifts they’ve asked for. There normally isn’t a dry eye in the house. It really helps put everything into perspective. It is hard to believe that even in one of the wealthiest communities in the country, we still have homeless families. I look forward to this every year. I get to personally shop for and wrap all the gifts, and then I get to see the children open the presents. It really helps bring meaning back to the holidays.
Are there any hard-to-find toy lines that are exclusive to Talbot’s?
We pride ourselves in our selection. We have dolls, teddy bears, and model trains built by Marklin trains, all of which are imported from Germany. We have toys from all around the world. Our science department has many items that are STEM certified. There are way too many lines to mention. We have over 250 thousand SKU’s throughout or 35,000-square-foot store.
Consumers have many shopping options at their fingertips, what makes your customers keep coming back?
I believe it is the personalized service they receive. When our customers return to the store, they normally see the same sales people. Our turnover is very small, and most employees have been here for years. This helps our employees to really know our merchandise and confidently make suggestions, often based on personal experience.
Quick Fire Round: One word or phrase
Three words to describe San Mateo: Family Friendly, Fun, Diverse
Favorite Restaurant in San Mateo: Central Park Bistro
Favorite toy invention: Spirograph
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