TACOMA, Wash. — Kendra Frogge feels like it was only yesterday that she and her husband Tom Frogge opened their antique toy shop in downtown Tacoma.
In actuality, the Frogges opened Lily Pad Antiques — the name a play on their last name — 31 years ago.
“We don’t know where the time went,” Kendra Frogge, 59, told The News Tribune as she stood among the thousands of toys in her shop on a September afternoon.
For years, the Frogges have enjoyed brightening the days of their customers, but they’re now ready to pass the torch to a new owner and step into retirement.
“We want to travel, we want to enjoy more time with our grandkids and great-grandkids, because we have a lot of them,” said Tom Frogge, 66.
The Frogges spent decades amassing a collection of antiques and collectibles. Now, there’s not an empty counter or wall in Lily Pad, a 1,600-square-foot shop.
Step inside, and you’ll see Coca-Cola themed knickknacks line the shelves in one corner, and Star Wars figurines and items in another. Raggedy Ann dolls, both old and new, are gathered in a basket on the floor and by the front window. Lunch boxes, Barbies and Disney toys can be picked out along the maze-like path throughout the store.
For Derek Nelson, sifting through the shop’s trove of Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars for his collection while chatting with the Frogges is a great way to unwind after a long day.
“I refuse to buy anything online for my collection, because I like to hunt, and I like places like this and I like the idea of a toy from ‘66 that some kid bought, you know, and played with forever and now here it is in my collection,” he said.
Nelson said he’s sad the Frogges are leaving.
“I love coming in and talking to Tom and Kendra,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun, you know, just talking toys and life in general.”
Married for 30 years, the Frogges first met at a flea market and decided to open their own shop in downtown Tacoma, which they stayed in for a few years before moving into a larger space at their current location at 756 Broadway.
“Toys have always been fun,” Tom Frogge said. “They’ve always been related to a happy time in your life. Most people, they find a toy from their childhood that brings back a happy time. That’s why we’ve always liked the toys.”
The Frogges had a front-row seat to the changing landscape of downtown over the years. Condos and places like McMenamins have brought more people.
“Come down here Saturday, Sunday, there’s a lot of people walking around, where even five years ago there wasn’t,” he said.
At the same time, there’s more competition in the antique toy business than there used to be.
“You’ve got to compete with online sellers that don’t need a brick and mortar — and they’re younger people, so they can chase things faster than we can,” Tom Frogge said. “Probably 15 years ago, even, there were only two comic stores that sold comics in Tacoma. Now there’s probably 10 or 15.”
The store has had to adapt to carry toys that became more popular over the years. Tom Frogge said some Star Wars figurines and Pokemon cards can sell for a high price and are currently popular. While toys from the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s gather dust, toys from the ‘70s and ‘80s fly off the shelves.
“We’ve been here so long we’ve seen stuff that was popular then not popular now,” Kendra Frogge said. “It’s each generation. It changes. Something we thought was rare now is common. Something we thought was common now is rare. So we’ve had to adjust our merchandise and our inventory to the generation now.”
Merchandise aside, the Frogges said the memories of the people they’ve met are what they’ll take with them when they leave.
“We have met so many neat people,” Kendra Frogge said. “They’ve invited us into their homes. We’ve gone out to dinner. Unfortunately, (we’ve) gone to funerals, but a lot of them just become treasured friends.”
Luckily, the Lily Pad isn’t going anywhere. Clarence Acosta, a longtime friend of the Frogges, will take over ownership when the Frogges leave at the end of September.
“We’ve known him for 30 years. And he loves toys, maybe more than we do,” Tom Frogge said.
Acosta, who works for a tool company in Tacoma, has been an avid collector of Matchbox cars and Hot Wheels and has been buying, selling and trading them for years.
“I came in here one day and they were talking about retiring, so some other things kind of fell into place,” he told The News Tribune.
Acosta said there might be some small changes to the store in the future, but nothing drastic, and probably not anytime soon.
“I’m looking forward to meeting all the customers,” he said.
This story was originally published by The News Tribune.
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