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The Shame about the Toy Box (11 replies)

About 8 months ago when I joined the e-group, I thought it was a wonderful forum to keep Niles a tight community and a STRONG community.  We all wish to see our beautiful neighborhood folurish.  I was a little irritated with how harshly some reacted when the proprieter of the Toy Box tried to spread the news on this forum for a magician they were having at an event in their store.  Everyone went off about how this is not a venue for business owners to advertise their promotions, but instead only a place where persons can spread the word about their own wares. 

The owner of the Toy Box was snapped at and basically made to feel
unwelcome because of their breech of "net-tiquette", although many tried to come to their defense and remind us all that the real purpose of this group should be to try to keep a strong community which entails helping each other.

Now, because of lack of business, and sales, the Toy Box is forced to close its doors at the end of this month.  I can't help but wonder if we had been more open and understanding, or had tried to help one of our own out months ago, if we could have helped prevent this unfortunate event.

The Toy Box sells a ton of educational, and wholesome games, toys, trinkets, and one of a kind objects.  In todays video game age, when it seems like every child has witnessed far too much violence, sex, drugs, and innappropriate material on the TV, in the movies, on video games, and the internet, I would have thought that a store in our "down home" community that fostered learning with toys that nurture imagination, creativity, motor development, cognative learning, love, sharing, nature, etc. would have been more welcome.  It is a shame that we could not do more to keep this here.

We have a town with more alcohol permits than any I have ever imagined, we have as most will agree a very specialized majority of stores that sell antiques and collectibles, I think the Toy Box offered some much needed variety to the town we are so eagerly trying to build and make flourish.

As a teacher at our Elementary school I would often purchase gift certificates from the Toy Box for prizes for my students, that is how proud I was of their stock, I will miss being able to offer this to my students, your children.

J Street

Posted – 04/15/06 9:30am by Lynn R Slater, updated or replied 04/15/06 2:00pm

 I too, am saddened to hear that another independent business owner has to
close their doors.
The Toy Box is such a great, colorful and creative is a shame
they have to close so soon after opening.

2nd Street
Posted – 04/15/06 9:31am by Lynn R Slater

 Just for a little perspective, there are currently 371 people in this Niles group, versus well over 200,000 in Fremont, and over 300,000 in the Tri-City area. I can't see that a handful of people who expressed displeasure at the manner in which The Toy Box notified 0.1% of the local population of their existence could have any material effect on the business.

I'm not a business owner, much less a toy store owner, but I would imagine that running a speciality toy store in Niles would be exceptionally challenging. I'm sure that running _any_ independent toy store, in these days of Toys "R" Us and other mega-stores, must be hard, wherever it is. In Niles, you have at least two additional problems. First, very, very few people would see the store as they drive through Niles downtown simply because very few people do drive through downtown other than the folks who live here. Second, an astonishing number of people have no idea where Niles is, and that includes many, many people who live in the Tri-City area, believe it or not. So I would expect that drawing people to The Toy Box would have to involve a great deal of advertising, and not just within the Tri-City area. That advertising would have to be very compelling, as well, to draw people here, on a special trip, and away from the mass marketing of the mega-stores. And maybe they did advertise; but I know that I didn't see any advertising other than the message they sent to this list and their ads in Dave & Carol's newsletter.

Don't get me wrong - I commend the owners of The Toy Box for their efforts at bringing their business to Niles. And I think it's a shame that they haven't been able to make it here. But I have to say that I'm not entirely surprised.

Posted – 04/15/06 9:32am by Lynn R Slater

A consoling riddle:
   Ahead of the times,  Behind the times, how can you be both at the same time?
(I hope this doesn't violate the Quixotic "no humor" rule of this E-group and land me in the dungeon alongside "He who lives on Third street")
Answer: open a business in Niles, California!
I remember when we opened The Nile Cafe in 1999, Local people who knew a lot more about the town than we did told us one of two things:
A. Niles was on the cusp of waking up, big changes were ahead, positioning was perfect...
B. This was silliest, most sure to fail venture they could imagine making...
 The closing of the beautiful Toy Box shows painfully how true this situation still is, 7 years later....
I felt like I was a regular in a Fellini movie for 4 years, every weekend, waving to the 200 passengers on the steam train who could not get off to stroll through town and provide a tourist business base...
As I told every different group that staged events in town, "Thank you, you are helping the town stay here, in a very real way... Our business could not have survived without those "Festival Days"! " I used to say, "I feel like I got a glimpse of functional retailing", after one of the rare big weekends...
Foot traffic, plain and simple, we don't have it yet folks. Don't blame yourselves too much, it's pretty damn tough to make something out of nothing.
The Train will help a lot, Niles will come of age somehow, someway, sooner or later, More than a few small fortunes have been lost here on the promise of our charm, and there is no doubt that a time in the future will happen when suddenly things begin clicking and start warming up. A handfull of successful resturants, A gourmet grocery store, a nice downtowntown park, some music and upscale entertainment,  high end art, and home shops...When that time comes the Toy Box would have been right at home.... 
Its about a critical mass of attraction..
 One very cool little coffee shop, even being written up in full color spreads in the ANG Business section, Bay Area Backroads, etc. couldn't do it alone, and niether could that very well done Toy Box hold it's own bluff against the same stacked deck...
A customer continues to be a very precious thing in Niles, for whatever that means to the gentle reader...
Dirk Visser

Posted – 04/15/06 9:32am by Lynn R Slater


I first arrived in Niles in 1957, the thing I remembered was what a bustling town it was. It was a blue collar town with Pacific State Steel and the railroad hauling sugar beets. Downtown Niles was always crowded with people and all the business flourished.

It is now 2005 and Niles is a ghost town. How many resturants have failed, how many businesses have failed.

Some one tried to open Joes Corner, selling sandwiches and craft beer. They were tarred and feathered and ran out of town.

I have tried to shop in Niles, the Toy Shop and the Nile Cafe. There is no variety, if you like antiques, well ok

You need to ask the question WHY, it is obvious to a lot of us.

Regards Bill Spicer

Niles Blvd.

Posted – 04/15/06 9:33am by Lynn R Slater

Hi Bill,
 The rare perspective contained in your report is appreciated...
The Nile Cafe survived and thrived for several reasons:
A. A legitimate local niche was addressed and filled.
B. A core group of dedicated, almost fanatical, customers responded to each other, and the pride they felt as a community in us and themselves, . They said in effect with their business, referals and contributions,: "Sorry, we will not allow you to fail"
C. We kept it fresh all the time in those early days "Wowing!" our customers, (and sometimes ourselves) with Art, Music, and outrageous displays of community identity, and self deprecating humor...
D. Through sheer force of will and the leading efforts of our core contributors,  we together put a challenge out there to the rest of Town:
This is Your Place! We built it for You! Who are you? Where are You?.... The challenge was accepted, and the rest is history...
Guess what? Enough showed up and stayed, we took money out of that place the first month, made a modest living for four years, and never really looked back.
Today it's still there, 7 years later, a young legend in the latter day history of the town...
This story  is typical for small ventures that hit the mark, especially restaurants and other gathering places, 
 A  few more establishments like this will be the healthy potential next steps in the evolution of our district to realize economic vitality and be a fun place to spend time, (and make money).
I can only imagine the vitality, realism, and comfort of 1957, What a sweet image you paint....
Thanks again, Dirk
Posted – 04/15/06 9:33am by Lynn R Slater

 Recipe (for success?):

3 parts: Creative Vision

3 parts: Originality

10 parts: Courage (despite an insignificant number of misinformed
e-group nay-sayers)

Infinite parts: Timing

Gilbert Anderson had all four parts and did quite well for himself.
Yet with all that he never anticipated, prepared for, or was willing
to admit to Essanay's inevitable demise...hmmmmmmm
Posted – 04/15/06 9:34am by Lynn R Slater

Hi Joe,
I'll buy that recipe, if you'll let me put the showing up, perseverence, endurance, and holding fast  all under your courage heading...
Interesting you would bring Broncho Billy into it, what made you think of that?
I think the reason the loss of the Toy Box is striking such a  
chord with Niles observers is that it was cleary a very nice Palo Alto or Pleasanton upscale quality of stock and presentation...nothing much at all like Toys 'R Us..... and, ironically, ....Just what people say they hope to see start happening around here....
Posted – 04/15/06 9:34am by Lynn R Slater

I'm sorry about every quality business that tries in Niles and fails.  I walk in Niles every morning and hope for some sign that the downtown might be morphing into something other than antique stores and bars.  I never visited the Toy Box.  My kids are 16 and 22 and it's been some time since I made a Christmas run to Toys R Us .  I'm sorry it's closing.  But, there has to be some way to get  more people into Niles.  Most people driving down Mission are so intent on getting to where they are going that they are completely oblivious to what's on the other side of the tracks.  Both Bill and Dirk are right.   Antique stores are not enough.  How many times a week do you think, "Gee, I need another antique for my living room?"  But the Nile - yes, a coffee, or a sandwich, that's something that appeals to everyone on a daily basis.  And the atmosphere in the Nile is the perfect combination of homey and quirky that makes it very compelling. 
As much as we love this town, we can't keep every business going on our own. The signs on the underpasses are a start, the train stopping here, hopefully will bring more folks.  I hope to see a more vital downtown Niles as time passes, but I'm afraid there will be a number of sacrificial lambs until we get there.
Genie Hawkins
Barnes Lane
Posted – 04/15/06 9:34am by Lynn R Slater

I to am saddened by the Toy Box closing, but if we look at it from a business standpoint how could they make it?
Their rent was 3k a month, that is an awful lot for an independent business owner in a small town with limited foot traffic. It seems to me that the property owners don't care if the the businesses they rent to make it. They just want the MONEY!! With a nut that large to crack every month not including, utilities, insurance and advertising it is no surprise. I hope the property owners will take heed, do they want empty buildings or do they want successful businesses that add to the future of the Niles District?
My two cents for what its worth
Niles Blvd.
Posted – 04/15/06 2:00pm by Lynn R Slater

Ouch!  I knew that the landlord wanted another year's lease, or additional $1000 deposit, but I had no idea how steep the rent is!  If that's considered reasonable for a town that is full of antiques and beauty shops, it's no wonder no one with a novel business can make it.
another customer mourning the loss of a treasured store
Posted – 04/15/06 2:00pm by Lynn R Slater

Another reason Niles is a ghost town. Does anyone know who the landlord was? Do landlords make more money with there building vacant, on there Taxes?
Has anyone compiled a list of the business failures in Niles. Has anyone analyzed The failures, is there any common thread that can be found, like rent to high for the business or area?
What is Niles reputation in the retail/business community?
Bill Spicer  Niles Blvd.
Posted – 04/15/06 2:00pm by Lynn R Slater

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