South Pasadena’s beloved toy store, The Dinosaur Farm, has just been named by Fatherly.com among the “25 Best Independent Toy Stores in America”. That’s no surprise to locals who know our town’s toy store is a South Pasadena gem that folks come from miles around to experience. Recently a mom brought her son up from San Diego for the day because he saw the store online and begged to go!
Owner, David “Dino Dave” Plenn, says he has no idea how these things happen but says it’s always nice to get recognized and offers, “I’m pretty sure it’s the name, you know, Dinosaur Farm, which works against us sometimes because people sometimes think we’re only dinosaurs but also it intrigues people, they want to check it out.”
By the way, how DID that name come about? “Everybody thinks it was my idea,” says Plenn, “but actually my wife Shelley came up with it. She was retail director for the Natural History Museum at the time (Shelley Stevens is a sought after museum store consultant) and the name occurred to her and she kind of kept it to herself until we were brainstorming about what I could do in town instead of traveling and playing music. She said “toy store” and that didn’t quite get my attention and then she said “I’ve got a name for it; The Dinosaur Farm” and I was immediately there! I got so excited by the name; I’d always loved dinosaurs and I tell you, when I placed that first order and opened that first box it was SO GREAT!” Plenn laughs at the memory, “it had been 30 years since I’d played with dinosaurs and here were all these cool, new dinosaurs, new names, new models…just so exciting. And my joke is that we are in this old farming community that started with the ostrich farm, cut to Bristol Farms and of course now we have The Dinosaur Farm.”
Plenn goes on to say, “I think we offer an experience as opposed to a big retail space; the way we have it all decorated… the murals on the walls.” And I would add that it’s also the friendly, familiar faces that greet you every time you come in, none more so than Plenn himself who many in town lovingly refer to as “the mayor of South Pasadena”.
“I wasn’t familiar with Fatherly.com,” he says, “ but it’s a really great, hip website. It’s parenting but it’s geared towards Dads. I’m always totally flabbergasted by these things but also really honored because we’re just over here busy helping people with their birthday parties, wrapping their gifts up…just your local toy store like everybody else and then somehow someone puts us in a group at the top of the list when there are thousands of toy stores around the country.”
In addition to this latest accolade, The Dinosaur Farm has been awarded Best Toy Store by Pasadena Weekly, was also named one of the Ten Most Amazing Toy Stores in the United States by Forbes Travel in 2005 and much to Plenn’s surprise in 2014, they were named in BuzzFeed’s list of 17 Toy Stores That Will Change Your Kids’ Lives, right next to stores from London, Tokyo, and Berlin. “I started laughing,” says Plenn remembering seeing it for the first time, “and Shelley, said “what are you laughing about?” and I said, “we’re on this list of toy stores and it says Berlin, Tokyo, Lisbon, Paris…. South Pasadena!” that was amazing.”
Plenn says they had a great Christmas season and now they are hitting the ground running with the store already re-stocked with new arrivals coming every day. They have a nice selection of cool Valentine books, toys, plush toys and good old fashioned Valentine card sets as well as Martin Luther King Jr. books and other great books and items for Black History Month. Plenn is even stocking up early for Easter goodies because, he reminds us, Easter comes very early this year, April 1st, and we’re not fooling. And of course, as always, you can find incredible new dinosaurs!