David Sidie first discovered Toy Fusion on El Camino Avenue in Sacramento in 2003. He brought his son with him, and still remembers “the awesomeness of just seeing my son enjoy a piece of history.”
But at the time, Sidie didn’t know the store would eventually be a thing of the past. On March 12, Toy Fusion closed the doors of its storefront location. For long-time customers like Sidie, the closure is a huge loss. “A lot of us that have been there — going back and back and back — are sad to see it close down,” he says.
Owner Andrew Leung had been running the store since he took over Toy Alley, the previous shop at that location, around 2000. “Toy Fusion became a place for some people to relive their childhood again, or [to] recreate the childhood they never had,” Leung says.
He was originally planning on just running the shop for one summer, and now, all these years later, he’s still in the toy business — so he knows firsthand how the industry has changed. He mentions how toys are the new “it” thing, and while admitting to collecting toys used to be embarrassing, people have begun to realize both the monetary and sentimental value of toys and collectibles.
Customers also appreciate a physical location, even with eBay and other outlets providing places for people to shop for such wares online. Toy Fusion was also the only collectible toy store in the area. “Going to eBay and buying something, it’s not the same as going into a shop and looking at stuff, and seeing something, touching it, feeling it,” Leung says. “[Toy Fusion] was like a museum for some people.”
But all hope isn’t lost, as Leung has his sights set on opening a new storefront location in the near future. “At one time we were the biggest vintage, collectable toy store in Northern California,” he says. “I’d like to maybe bring that back somehow, in one form or another.”
Toy Fusion’s closure was set in motion two years ago when the building’s landlord passed away. Ownership of the building went to a bank, before the car dealership next door purchased the property. Since then, the building has fallen into some disarray, with leaks and a decrepit roof. The new owner is renovating the space, but Leung says he was told that the process could take several months and rent could potentially go up twice as much for half the space. Leung saw it as a good time to leave.
The problems with the building, combined with Leung’s busy schedule — he has been working part time as a teacher and running toy shows — meant he spent less time at the store and had to hire people who weren’t enthusiastic. That’s another factor he thinks hurt the business. “The last year of the store — you could tell, the energy wasn’t there,” Leung says.
Ultimately, given that the closure was a result of problems with the building more than problems with the business, Leung still wants to have a physical Toy Fusion store in the Sacramento area. But as any owner of a brick-and-mortar business will tell you, it’s hard to make money just through the physical store. So Toy Fusion will work with Great Escape Games in Sacramento to put on monthly toy shows, and will also sell items via consignment at the Back to the 80s Store in Rancho Cordova.
Leung has also spent the past four years developing Toy Worth, an online toy price guide. The site is still in beta, but Leung hopes it will become a virtual place where toy fans will be able to collect, sell, check prices and connect with on another. “I believe this could be the game changer to help merge technology with collectors in a very educational forum that I learned through working at the store for 20 years,” Leung says.
He also has an even bigger idea brewing: a “Geek Mall,” where
Leung says he could bring together multiple storefronts — such as
a toy shop, comic shop and car shop — all at one location. This
mall could expand on all the great elements of Toy Fusion, and
give loyal customers like Sidie a new place to patronize.