Toy Story

Four small shops that play big

By Stacey Wilson May 19, 2009 Published in the December 2008 issue of Portland Monthly

0812 038 mud anya edie2i

You won’t find any of the latest Disney-movie characters on the shelves of this Pearl District store. Instead, Green Frog stocks a slew of European brands like Haba, which makes great wooden blocks for toddlers, and the classic German toymaker Playmobil. The company has updated its figures to include black and Asian families while staying just as old-school cool as grown-ups remember.
1031 NW 11th Ave, 503-222-2646

This Hawthorne charmer epitomizes Oregon’s keep-it-local-and-responsible philosophy with brands like the Ashland-based Pecos Pine Toys, which crafts hand-carved wood trucks, and Eugene’s Mary’s Soft Play Dough (it can last up to a year). The shop has a global slant, too, selling items from the Indian company Maya. Its baby toys, such as rattles made from organic wood, are just a few of the eco-friendly options available here for your little one.
3445 SE Hawthorne Blvd, 503-231-2954

In 1994, former science teachers Joan and Tye Steinbach opened this Multnomah Village shop, and it’s still the city’s most hands-on venue for fun. There are five play areas (including a Snow White-themed space and a pirate nook), each with tables for playing games. And they sell more than a hundred of those, including the cooperative game Round-Up (everybody wins) and Labyrinth, a brain-bender the whole clan can enjoy.
7784 SW Capitol Hwy, 503-245-3936

It’s toys galore at this beloved 31-year-old downtown Portland retailer, which employs 25 trinket-obsessed employees to help you stuff the stockings of even the adults on your list (especially those hankering for 1950s-style robot windup toys). In 2002, to keep up with demand, the store opened a second location, Little Finnegan’s, right next door to house office-desk-ready items such as Simpsons paraphernalia and vintage Kellogg’s cereal-character figurines.
922 SW Yamhill St, 503-221-0306