Biz Buzz: Building a Toy Store Dynasty

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Gary and Diane Naumann inside Toys Ahoy / photo by Christopher Trela
Gary and Diane Naumann inside Toys Ahoy / photo by Christopher Trela

Some people, and families, have certain businesses in their blood: multi-generations of doctors or attorneys, or flower shops owners.

In the case of Gary and Diane Naumann, it’s toys. And though they weren’t born into the toy biz, they cannot seem to stay away, and have even enlisted their family to help launch a new toy venture.

Diane started along this path in the early 1990s when she worked for one of the most iconic and visible toy stores in Corona del Mar, The Toy Shop, which catered to multiple generations of families at the same location on Coast highway for five decades.

The owner of that business lost the lease and closed the store, but Diane’s love for toys did not go away. In 1995, she and Gary opened Toy Boat Toy Boat Toy Boat, which eventually grew into a four location mini-dynasty, all within three miles of each other.

From 1995 to 2007 they ran the chain successfully, but in October of 2007 they decided to move on and move out—to Scottsdale, Arizona.

They stayed out of the toy business for several years until they visited their niece, Katie Wood, who was living in Columbus, Ohio but had developed a love for toys while spending Christmas vacations visiting (and working) at Toy Boat Toy Boat Toy Boat.

The Naumanns ended up partnering with Katie and opened Toyville in Columbus in September, 2011.

In a random, jestful conversation earlier this year (primarily generated by the brutal winter in Ohio), Katie offhandedly said to Aunt Diane, “Maybe we should close this store and open another in Newport.”

Which they did: Toys Ahoy at 1649 Westcliff Dr., the same center as the old Toy Boat Toy Boat Toy Boat store.

Katie and her family are now local residents and run the store while Gary and Diane commute between here and Scottsdale.

Gary considers this move to Newport a “relocation, rather than a closing and new opening.”

Gary and Diane have an obvious love for toys but Gary’s background as a former employee of Deloitte and Touche along with being a professor of Entrepreneurship at UCI give him the academic background to scale as far as they did.

When Gary was asked if he was going to be “happy” with just one store or if they had visions of another dynasty, he referred back to his professional jargon and said, “This is too new to rate.”

However, don’t be surprised if we’re seeing the start of something big here in Newport one more time.

For information visit ShopToysAhoy.com or call (949) 877-6656.

 

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