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San Francisco's Oldest Toy Store That Inspired ‘Toy Story’ Closing Down After 86 Years

Jeffrey’s Toys, the oldest toy store in San Francisco holds the legacy of inspiring one of the most loved animation films, ‘Toy Story’. But unfortunately, the store is closing down forever after decades of business.

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Toy Story Photo: Disney
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San Francisco's iconic toy store, Jeffrey’s Toys, the inspiration behind the Pixar classic "Toy Story," has announced the permanent closure of its doors, bringing an end to its storied 86-year legacy. The family-owned establishment, founded in 1938 by Morton and Birdie Luhn, has weathered numerous challenges over the years but succumbed to a confluence of factors, including the city's pervasive crime and violence, inflation, declining consumer spending, and the broader decline of retail.

The store, once boasting multiple locations across the Bay Area, dwindled to its final outpost in the Financial District of San Francisco. Its rich history reflects a transformation from "Birdies Variety," a five-and-dime variety store, to "Birdie’s Toy House" post-World War II, specializing exclusively in toys.

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Mark Luhn, grandson of the founders, carried on the legacy, with his son Matthew Luhn, a former Pixar story artist and writer, eventually becoming a co-owner. Matthew Luhn's involvement with Pixar, especially during the creation of "Toy Story," further intertwined the store's identity with the beloved film.

The signs of Jeffrey’s Toys' struggle became pronounced during the pandemic, with the family facing significant monthly rent costs, approaching $20,000. The pandemic's economic fallout added strain, making the operation unsustainable.

San Francisco's surge in violent crimes, specifically impacting the store's staff, added another layer of challenge. One employee reportedly faced a life-threatening encounter, being pushed against the store's wall and nearly stabbed.

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San Francisco's broader crime epidemic, marked by a 14.4% increase in robberies in 2023, became a focal point of concern. The city's crime statistics revealed a troubling trend, positioning it as safer than only one percent of U.S. neighborhoods, with a robbery rate over 4.5 times higher than the national average, according to Neighborhood Scout.

Jeffrey’s Toys joined a growing list of retailers forced to close due to the city's crime and homelessness crisis. Since the onset of the pandemic, approximately 40 retail stores have shuttered in the downtown area. Major brands such as Starbucks, Whole Foods, Old Navy, Saks Off 5th, Office Depot, Athleta, Abercrombie & Fitch, Disney, Marshall’s, H&M, and Gap have faced closures amid an unchecked exodus of crime and homelessness.

The impact extended to the city's largest mall, Westfield San Francisco Centre, which saw a significant decline in its estimated worth, losing nearly $1 billion. Retailers, including Nordstrom, exited the mall, citing concerns about the dangerous environment surrounding the premises.

Jeffrey’s Toys' closure represents more than the end of a business; it symbolizes the fading vibrancy of San Francisco's once-thriving downtown experience. Despite the family's dedication, investments, and love for the store, the lack of support from city officials and the deteriorating security situation became insurmountable challenges. As the curtains fall on Jeffrey’s Toys, it adds another chapter to the ongoing narrative of San Francisco's struggles with crime, posing questions about the future of its iconic establishments and the broader retail landscape.

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