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San Clemente Journal

The Toy Box - Providing Holiday Fun

Dec 06, 2022 12:05PM ● By Britta Wilder

Dolores Sargeant in her new store at the Outlets.

By Britta Wilder

Christmastime when we were young... remember the excitement of the season? Family and friends, gifts and giving, every instant a pure joy. What if there was a way to relive those childhood moments, a place to make magical memories again? The Toy Box at The Outlets at San Clemente has done just that, creating a holiday haven year-round.

Owners Sean and Dolores Sargeant–who also own the Jerky and Cali Gifts shop in the mall, opened The Toy Box last year as one part opportunity, the other, a sheer love for nostalgia.

“Kids and parents would often ask, ‘Where’s a toy store around here?’” Sean said.

While busy running their other stores, including Jerky Cali and souvenir shops in Dana Point and Temecula, the Sargeants had recently opened their third location at the Outlets in 2021 and were not looking to take on another venture. But Dolores, ever the enthusiastic entrepreneur, noticed a few vacancies available at the mall and saw an opportunity. After some swift negotiating a deal was struck and it wasn’t long–two months, in fact–that the husband and wife team scrambled from inception to execution of their dream store: The Toy Box
“It was a whirlwind!” Dolores exclaimed, “We found our vendors, found out what we needed to do, put it together in a couple of months and opened October 1st!”

Twelve months later, The Toy Box feels like it has always been a part of San Clemente, offering happy customers and visitors a sentimental sanctuary filled with their favorite toys, games and activities, and also a chance for some old-fashioned fun.

“We really get to know people,” Sean said, remarking about how multi-generational families love to come in and connect to the classic merchandise and reminisce about their own childhoods. “Customers love to hang out and talk to their kids and share their stories with us. By now we know a lot of people by their first name!”

The Toy Box is known for its huge inventory of retro merchandise, including wall-crawlers, jacks, dominoes, tiddily winks, slip n slides, gliders, pop rocks, gumball machines, candy necklaces, whoopie cushions, pin ball, parachutes and more. There’s even Pac Man for some ‘newer’ vintage play. Classic lines also include My Little Pony, Hello Kitty, Strawberry Shortcake, OMG Dolls, G.I. Joe, Tonka trucks, Disney, Hasbro, Marvel, Brio, Curious George, Peanuts, Crocodile Creek, Peter Rabbit gifts and Baby Gund plush toys for infants. The list is incredible.
“People come in and say, ‘I feel like a little kid!’” Dolores laughed, noting what an effect being surrounded by toys will do to customers. “They browse for awhile and then the little ones will get out of control... but in a good way!”

Beautifully decorated year-round - it’s Christmas at The Toy Box 365 shelves of elves, sleighs, ornaments, gnomes and vintage-style Department 56 collectibles surround themed trees throughout. Music boxes and old-style TV sets fill the air with holiday sound; the store, brimming with toys and merriment, shimmers and sparkles with the season. This is the ultimate traditional-not virtual- alternative to shopping online. Plus genuine customer service-in person.

“We’ll talk with people one on one, and show kids how to use the toys and interact with their games,” Dolores said. “It’s funny, a lot of times parents will want the same toy their child does!”

With items for all ages, it’s a family destination for fun and finding that perfect present. Top sellers include a vast assortment of stuffed animals- everything from bears to unicorns to stick ponies and beyond-also The Great Pretenders kids costumes and kits, including princesses and caped crusaders. 

Neatly organized, customers can also select gifts by categories: sporty fun features gliders, pogo sticks, scooters, bat-n-ball sets, air-rider swings, Alice in Wonderland croquet sets, and more. For young artists there’s a pottery wheel, Djeco activity boxes, make-it-yourself bracelets and headbands, and creative kits galore. Got a science kid? Young scientists will love an array of products, everything from ant farms to butterfly gardens with nets. The Toy Box has every child’s wish here. And then some.

Older folks especially enjoy the large selection of Ravensberger and Springbox puzzles (ranging from 48-3000 pieces), along with classic board games, including Yahtzee, Parchisi, chess, checkers, trivia, Scrabble and, of course, Monopoly in several different styles. For Anime fans there’s Funko Pop themed collections and boxed figurines-some autographed, too. An entire wall section is dedicated to games for the whole family. 

“We get a lot of local folks who come in and then come back, and of course their kids enjoy it, too!” Dolores said.

The busy couple has been happily married for 33 years and attributes their success in business and life to working hard and finding time to have fun. “We love to travel and hike, or just relax at the pool,” Dolores said, also noting that it may be awhile for vacation with their busiest time beginning now.
This season the Outlets present its annual “World’s Tallest Tree” spectacular, and The Toy Box is ready. Starting in November there will be a bright red Santa’s Mail Box at the store, and Dolores and Sean invite children to pen their letters to St. Nick and drop them into the box for special delivery to the North Pole.
“The kids love it!” Dolores smiled.

Parents do, too. Judging by the success of their first year, this holiday season is bound to be another wonderful winter wonderland for the Sargeants, and the magical marketplace they have created. “I really like to work for myself and to share it with others,” Dolores said happily. “I really enjoy what I do!”
The Toy Box is indeed becoming San Clemente’s merriest Christmas stop to shop. It’s a memory place - a place for sharing one, making one and taking one home!

The Toy Box is open daily 10-8 at The Outlets at San Clemente, Suite #170. 

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