Iconic San Francisco Toy Store Shuts Down Amid Rising Crime Wave
The closure of Jeffrey’s Toys, San Francisco’s oldest and most cherished toy store, is a poignant symbol of the city’s decline. After an 86-year journey, this iconic store, which inspired Pixar’s “Toy Story,” is succumbing to a cocktail of urban problems that have plagued San Francisco in recent years. Jeffrey’s Toys, started in 1938 by Morton and Birdie Luhn, evolved from a variety store into a toy haven post-World War II. However, the whimsy and wonder that this store once represented are now overshadowed by the harsh realities of urban decay.
The demise of Jeffrey’s Toys isn’t just about the loss of a business; it’s a reflection of the city’s failure to maintain a safe, vibrant downtown. The store’s struggle, particularly in recent years, highlights the broader crisis facing San Francisco – rampant crime, violence, and a deteriorating retail environment. The store’s co-owner, Matthew Luhn, a former Pixar story artist, nostalgically recalls how his father and Jeffrey’s Toys played a role in the making of “Toy Story.” Yet, such fond memories are now clouded by the store’s struggles, including a staggering $20,000 monthly rent and a decline in business exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The problems plaguing Jeffrey’s Toys and its eventual closure are symptomatic of the city’s broader issues. San Francisco’s unchecked crime wave, with robberies increasing by 14.4% in 2023, has played a significant role in this closure. The city, once a hub of commerce and tourism, is now considered safer than only 1% of US neighborhoods. This crime surge not only threatens businesses but also puts the safety of employees and customers at risk, as highlighted by an incident where a Jeffrey’s Toys employee was nearly stabbed.
This problem extends beyond Jeffrey’s Toys. The mass exodus of retailers from the city’s downtown area, with approximately 40 stores shutting down since the onset of the pandemic, paints a grim picture of a city in decline. Prominent retailers and even the city’s largest mall, Westfield San Francisco Centre, have suffered significant losses. The mall’s worth plummeted by nearly $1 billion, and the departure of Nordstrom after 35 years due to safety concerns is a testament to the city’s deteriorating conditions.
The story of Jeffrey’s Toys is a microcosm of San Francisco’s larger struggle – a battle against increasing crime, declining retail, and a loss of community assets. It serves as a stark reminder that the charm and character of a city are fragile and can be eroded by mismanagement and neglect. As Jeffrey’s Toys closes its doors, it leaves behind a legacy of joy and imagination, but also a warning about the consequences of failing to uphold the safety and vibrancy of our urban centers.