The Dinosaur Farm is Back!

South Pasadena’s beloved toy store is back in business after closing its doors due to severe rain damage

PHOTO: Alisa Hayashida | The South Pasadenan | L-R: Alex Janetzke, Taylor Plenn, Shelley Plenn, David Plenn, South Pasadena Mayor Jon Primuth, District Representative from Senator Anthony Portantino's office , Erica Nam, South Pasadena Mayor Pro-Tem, Evelyn Zniemer, City Councilmember, Jack Donovan, and Colleen Berry.

To the great relief of children and families in South Pasadena and beyond, our beloved toy store, The Dinosaur Farm, is officially OPEN! After four long months of repairs and renovation after a severe rain storm caused flooding in the building, owner David Plenn and his intrepid crew, flung open the doors on Friday August 25, to welcome the community. Eager little ones, with eyes as big as saucers, rushed in to see the plethora of toys, dinosaurs, and familiar friendly faces of the excited Dino Farm staff. Along with all the toys, old and new, families were happy to see the familiar surroundings with some added touches and upgrades.

PHOTO: Alisa Hayashida | The South Pasadenan | The Dinosaur Farm staff at the grand re-opening L to R Maya Villasenor, Drew Tager, David Plenn, Alex Janetzke, Colleen Berry

“It was a chance to make some changes and tweak some things,” says Plenn’s son, Taylor. “If you would have seen it even two weeks ago – still massaging it a bit, but I can’t believe it. I think it looks really good!”

“It feels great,” echoes Plenn. “And the people have been so warm and the staff has been so fantastic. The staff was great throughout all of this. They all stayed. They took unemployment and waited for me to come back and then they volunteered the last couple weeks painting and getting it all ready. They’re all back,” he tells us, obviously touched by their dedication and support.

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PHOTO: Alisa Hayashida | The South Pasadenan | The main room of The Dinosaur Farm restored and back in action.

The last two weeks saw a big push after months of painstaking repairs that involved asbestos removal, weeks of investigating the origin of the flooding and adhering to all the regulations that come with such a large undertaking. Every book, every toy, had to be wrapped and pulled into the other rooms so that the entire ceiling cover could be scraped, removed, repaired and then rewired and painted.

PHOTO: Drew Tager | The South Pasadenan | The Dinosaur Farm crew working to get the store ready in the weeks leading up to the reopening L-R: Margret Mittleman, Anj Sunday, Colleen Berry, David Plenn, Alex Janetzke, Maya Villasenor, Drew Tager, Mia Leeson, and Taylor Plenn.

On May 4th there was a severe rainstorm that hit Los Angeles at about 4am, dropping 1.65” in 45 minutes, which overwhelmed the drains in the roof. The apartment/office above Dino Farm flooded and proceeded to then flood the ceiling which then fell in. Plenn got a call from one of his staff, Alex, who told him he needed to come to the store immediately. At the time, Plenn thought he would have to close for about ten days. Little did he know he would embark on a four month journey of working through all the AQMD (Air Quality Management Districts) codes, requirements, and testing, as well as investigating and correcting the cause of the initial flooding.

PHOTO: Alisa Hayashida | The South Pasadenan | Dino Farm fans, Hunter Brown and son, Hudson, celebrating the grand reopening.

In doing so, the fluorescent lighting was removed and is now replaced with a beautiful, smooth ceiling painted a lovely blue-green sky color, and new track lighting, which highlights the refreshed wall murals adorning the main room. There is also a new, lush, dark-green carpeting which adds to the overall “Jurassic Park” jungle feel.

PHOTO: Alisa Hayashida | The South Pasadenan | The Dinosaur Farm owner, David Plenn, pictured with district representative from Anthony Portantino’s office, Erica Nam, and South Pasadena Mayor Jon Primuth.

“Part of what the crew did these past two weeks was repair the murals in the main room. In repairing and painting the ceiling, the workers had painted over several inches into the murals, so we had to re-create parts of it so it looks like the original and extend it to the ceiling.” Luckily for Plenn, he has a very creative and artistic crew working for him who stepped up to do the mural repair, which proved quite a challenge given that the original artist lives in Seattle. “This is a very artistic bunch,” says Plenn. “we had everybody up on scaffolds with teams working on different parts of the wall. This crew is so good – on our “Dino chat”, which consists of our current crew as well as some former crew as well – one of them is Marisa who’s going to work tomorrow because we were short people. I said, “any ex-crew wanna work?” and she immediately said, “reporting for duty, sir!” She’s the cutest thing in the world and she’ll be here tomorrow. Ali’s going to come back tomorrow – she hasn’t worked here for a couple years. We’re kind of family here – it’s a good environment.”

PHOTO: Alisa Hayashida | The South Pasadenan | David Plenn and an exuberant staff greet well wishers at the grand reopening.

Taylor is currently David’s “padawan”, shadowing Plenn in all things toy business, from attending large toy conventions, book buying, running the business and of course assisting through this recent setback and re-set of the store. Plenn started the store back when Taylor was a toddler and David, a working and traveling musician at the time, was looking to do something that kept him in town. After much discussion of different ideas, wife, Shelley, suggested a toy store. When she told him she already had a name, “The Dinosaur Farm”, David got excited and was all in. After 28 years, he’s still all in and is known in town simply as “Dino Dave”. As David looks to travel with Shelley and dedicate more time to music, he is pleasantly surprised that Taylor has a desire to continue bringing this special joy to kids and families, while bringing new ideas to the business including IT and the website.

PHOTO: Alisa Hayashida | The South Pasadenan | The Dinosaur Farm in South Pasadena.

But Dino Dave isn’t going anywhere. “I’ll probably be ordering dinosaurs because I know more than anybody else does about them. And I love being out there. I love kids, I love our parents, I love our staff.”

When asked what he missed most while they were closed, Plenn had this to say, “my staff probably the most – and the customers and the kids. There was a little kid who came by the weekend after the storm when the ceiling was falling in and we had plastic tarps over everything and there was just debris everywhere – it looked like a bomb shelter or something – and he just cried in a way that was like his dog got hit. Not in a way like “I wanted to buy something” but in a “this is my store, you can’t do this to my store”. He couldn’t fathom it. And I was doing so good until then and as I assured him with “it’s okay, buddy, we’ll be back”, I was tearing up. And that kept happening.”

In fact, for months, little ones and families have been leaving personal messages of love and support on the butcher paper sign on their front window display that said “temporarily closed for repairs”. There has been a groundswell of support from the community on social media as well. One thing is for certain, South Pasadena loves The Dinosaur Farm.

PHOTO: Alisa Hayashida | The South Pasadenan | The Dinosaur Farm celebrating 28 years in South Pasadena.

“Thank you for the support,” Dave says speaking to the community, “for the love you’ve shown us and the store, for being there and supporting us. It really means so much to me.”

The opening day culminated in an official ribbon cutting and party attended by Mayor Jon Primuth, councilmembers Evelyn Zniemer and Jack Donovan, District Representative Erica Nam from Anthony Portantino’s office, Chamber of Commerce CEO Laurie Wheeler, Chamber Board Members, Michelle Downing and Andrew Berk, along with family and friends of The Dinosaur Farm.

PHOTO: Alisa Hayashida | The South Pasadenan | L-R: Taylor Plenn, Shelley Plenn, David Plenn, South Pasadena Mayor Jon Primuth, District Representative from Senator Anthony Portantino’s office , Erica Nam, South Pasadena Mayor Pro-Tem, and Evelyn Zniemer celebrating the grand reopening of The Dinosaur Farm.

Plenn, first and foremost, thanked his staff for all of their hard work and dedication saying, “I couldn’t have done it without them.” Wheeler thanked the crowd and said, “we are so happy you are back!” Mayor Primuth said, “thank you for your commitment to families and the South Pasadena community, and I know your loyal customer base extends far beyond South Pasadena, but we want to celebrate all you’ve been about for many, many years. Thank you for the hard work at putting this back together and I look forward to many visits. You know, he sold me my lava lamp and if you’ve never had a lava lamp, you should get one. It’s very Zen.”

Erica Nam from Anthony Portantino’s office congratulated Plenn on “the grand reopening of the #1 community toy store.”

The store has indeed been recognized as one of the country’s top-rated independent toy and bookstores and is known throughout Southern California. The Dinosaur Farm has received accolades from Forbes in 2000 (“One of 10 Best Toy Stores in the US”), BuzzFeed in 2016 (one of “17 Toy Stores That Will Change Your Kids’ Lives,” a list of toy stores all over the world), named it among the  “25 Best Independent Toy Stores in America” , and USA Today, which included The Dinosaur Farm on its 2018 list of “10 Best Independent Toy Stores in America.”

All of these positive reviews point out that while the Dinosaur Room is unrivaled for its offering of dinosaur-themed stock, the rest of the store has, in BuzzFeed’s words, a very “well-curated” selection of other educational and just-for-fun toys and books for kids as well. From the “Pink & Purple” room (with plushies, Calico Critters, costumes, and craft kits), to the science section, game section, legos and figurines, a wall of infant toys, and a book section catering to all ages and a broad spectrum of interests, The Dinosaur Farm brings us everything with an eye towards its motto: “Not Your Ordinary Toy Store!”

On behalf of a grateful community, we welcome back our EXTRAORDINARY, unique and beloved toy store, The Dinosaur Farm!