Until recently, Pacifica shoppers seeking specialty toys had two options: buy them online or drive to another town. Thanks to Oceana Market's new toy and gift department, Pacifica now has a local shop specializing in simple, well-crafted toys.
Pacifica's newest addition is a collaboration between Vasu Narayanan, owner of Oceana Market, and Caroline Goff, a long-time purveyor of fine toys.
"I started collecting toys at a really young age," Goff reminisces. "I'd go to the Marin County flea market in Sausalito with my girlfriends on the weekends, and I'd collect old toys, fix them up, and resell them. It got to the point where I had so many toys at my house, it was ridiculous."
It wasn't long before Goff realized that toys were more than just a hobby, they were her passion. She opened her first toy store 23 years ago on Fisherman's Wharf, then moved her business to San Rafael so she could spend more time with her family.
"I found a location right next door to my children's school," says Goff. "I was so lucky, to be a working mom doing what I loved, with my own toy store! And my children could just walk over and hang out with me, it was perfect."
But like so many other small business owners, Goff became a victim of the economic downturn: three years ago, she had to close down her shop.
"I was trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life," Goff says. "And that's when I ran into my friend Vasu."
Oceana Market owner Narayanan, whose involvement in the community has given him close ties to the Pacifica Mother's Club, knew there was a niche to be filled. Without hesitation, he asked Goff to help him open a toy shop in his grocery store.
Says Goff, "I told Vasu that if he'd give me a budget, let me do all the buying, and offer free gift wrapping for birthdays, Christmas, and Hanukkah, he'd have a success."
So far, the buzz around town seems to support Goff's prediction.
"I love the new toy store in Oceana Market," says Julie Phillips, a Pacifica mom of three. "They've got a great selection of extremely high-quality toys, and they do beautiful gift wrapping for free with purchase, which is wonderful when I'm buying last-minute birthday presents."
While there are other places to buy toys in Pacifica, it's Goff's selection of specialty toys that makes Oceana Market's shop stand out.
"I believe in good old-fashioned toys that will bring you back to your childhood, and toys that are going to last a lifetime," says Goff. "Nowadays kids are so involved with sports and more homework than we ever had as children that there's not a lot of time for playing with toys. So if you're going to buy them something, I suggest buying something that's good quality, that's going to last and will spark their imaginations."
Goff's philosophy resonates with Pacifica native Valarie Lund, a teacher at the Pacifica Co-op Nursery School. With three of her own children, Lund is a firm believer in the value of imaginative play.
"I love the selection of wooden and reproduction toys," she says. "A lot of them are toys I played with as a child: simple toys that let children use their imaginations, don't require batteries, and don't talk, walk, or think for them."
Pacifica Mothers Club President Nanda Gatley says she is "beyond thrilled" about the new store.
"Vasu has been so supportive of the Pacifica Mothers Club, looking to us for feedback and truly listening to our needs. The name brands and the quality of the toys is so great, I'm looking forward to doing some of my holiday shopping locally this year."
Oceana Market Toys and Gifts is located inside Oceana Market in Eureka Square, 200 Eureka Drive in Pacifica, California.