¿ Towne Centre store will close in January
By Amy Daybert
When Jeff Snipes opened a toy store in Lake Forest Park in October 1985, he expected the business to last through Christmas.
More than 22 years later his business, Tree Top Toys, is closing.
The store hasn’t decided on a final day of operation, but its lease expires in January, Snipes said.
Snipes, 55, said hearing about plans to redevelop Towne Centre first spurred his decision to close shop.
“I did that 20 years ago,” he said about going through a remodel. “You have to move locations and then move back. It’s awful. I didn’t want to go through it again.”
The other reason, he said, is because he wants to try something new. He plans to move to Costa Rica, spend about a year getting situated and explore the possibility of opening a restaurant-and-bar establishment.
“I’ve been going there the past seven years, every January,” Snipes said. “It’s beautiful, it’s inexpensive, and Costa Ricans are such nice people. It’s a relaxed lifestyle.”
Before he leaves, though, Snipes hopes he’ll be able to sell as many toys as he can. He’s also hoping further negotiations with a possible new store owner will mean his employees can keep their jobs and Lake Forest Park residents will continue to enjoy visiting an independent toy store.
“He will open up under a new name, same employees and all new merchandise,” Snipes said. “If he does that it’ll be a win-win for my customers because they can get a good deal this Christmas and then come to a brand new toy store with new merchandise next Christmas.”
Snipes and employees of Tree Tops Toys in Lake Forest Park are often faced with sad reactions when people learn the store’s lease will not be renewed at the end of January.
“We have customers almost in tears when they find out,” Kathy Staab the store’s manager said. “We’re hoping another toy store will come in here.”
Thomas James of Edmonds was disappointed to hear the store is closing. He and his wife, Yoshie bring their daughter Jessika to visit the store whenever they’re in the area.
“It’s a great toy store without a doubt,” he said. “They sell a lot of stuff that is non-toxic and not painted with lead. It’s better than Toys “R” Us.”
Running a toy store is easy, according to Snipes. Many of his customers have become his friends and children who use to hang out in his store are bringing their own children back with them.
“If you have to be in some business, the toy industry has great people and it’s fun. You can sell anything,” he said. “Almost always when customers come in they’re in a happy place.”
He said small toy stores offer more of a selection that bigger chain stores and during holiday seasons where there isn’t a hot ticket item, such as a Tickle Me Elmo, “the little guys make out.”
“I always wanted to open up next to a Toys “R” Us,” he said. “I thought about it for years.”
Snipes said he encourages those who will miss Tree Top Toys to visit the store in Redmond. At the Lake Forest Park location, merchandise is currently 15 percent off. And prices may continue to fall as long as there are toys to sell.
One toy will commemorate the end of his toy entrepreneurship, Snipes said. He will pack the 1999 Beanie Baby Bear known as the End Bear with the original Tree Top Toys sign before heading for Costa Rica.
“It really was the end of Beanie Babies and I’ll probably keep that (bear),” he said.