San Diego toy store chain Geppetto's is defying retail odds

Posted at 4:46 PM, Apr 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-11 20:15:50-04

Local retailer thriving while big box stores fade

Box stores like Toys "R" Us are shuttering for good in coming days, but one local retailer is expanding in this toy climate.


Geppetto’s, which operates nine locations throughout San Diego, has started construction on a 10th location in Coronado.  


The family-owned and operated company will be expanding while Toys "R" Us will be shutting down 785 stores and laying off 31,000 people.


Geppetto’s President Brian Miller says he may have been in competition with Toys "R" Us but he still is respectful of the fading giant.


Miller knows how difficult it is to close a store and the impact felt on the community.  In 2013, his company shuttered the Otay Ranch Town Center location in east Chula Vista after struggling to gain traction during its 6 years.


READ: Chula Vista's ‘ghost town’


"No one want's to see a business close -- whether it's Toys "R" Us or whether it’s a small business, it's not good for the economy,“ said Miller, “but with the demise of Toys “R” Us there's a great demand for toys.”




Geppetto’s has been in San Diego for more than 40 years and Miller has been running things for the last 25 years.


“It’s amazing,” said Miller, “we’re lucky to have a such a loyal customer base here.”


A cozy aesthetic and a meticulously researched inventory that sells rather than sitting on the shelves are what keep Geppetto’s thriving, but Miller credits his staff of 100 people for making smart business decisions.


During the recent resurgence of Pokemon, Miller says his stores jumped at the opportunity to serve customers and stocked up on the two-decade old insect-battling card game when employees reported an early buzz.


"We're successful because of our employees, they're on the frontline," he says. "When they see a toy trending, we turn on a dime."




Miller doesn't worry about competition from online retail and superstores.  Geppetto's website is important part of Miller's business model, but he says his stores do things that online retail can't offer: community engagement.  


Geppetto's regularly hosts events and activities for families to experience the latest toys, but mostly, Miller says, for the community to have a place to come together.


"Being local and reacting to local markets, that's difficult to do when you’re a big, national chain," he says.


“We want to have them to have best experience here and we don't care if they don't buy anything today,” said Miller, “but if they have a good experience, then they come back."


Geppetto’s in Coronado opens up on Orange Avenue at the end of the month.  And Miller has plans to bring his special brand of service to other parts of San Diego.


"Yes, you can expect to see more locations, but I don’t want to grow too fast," he says. "I want to have slow steady growth ... I'm in this for the long haul."