MARION, Va. — Step into The Toybox and step back in time.
Marion residents Arnold and Jessica Davidson welcome all those young at heart to enjoy a nostalgic visit to their childhood at a new business in downtown Marion.
The Toybox is a dream of Arnold Davidson’s since he began collecting vintage toys and ran out of room to display them all.
“I started collecting things here and there. You kinda get that bug,” Davidson said. “For a collector, basically it comes down to that feeling you had as a kid. I like that feeling. I’m a very nostalgic person.”
Davidson said it began with his search for a toy he had as a kid. The “He-Man” action figure was his favorite.
“I started collecting toys about a year-and-a-half ago,” he said. “I wanted the He-Man toy I had as a kid and looking for that I got the bug.”
Did he find He-Man?
“I found several, but I’m still on the hunt,” he said.
Davidson scours yard sales, estate sales, eBay and toy stores for interesting vintage toys. Mechanical tin toys are a favorite of collectors. Davidson also likes Masters of the Universe toys and retro video games. In The Toybox, you can play a couple of vintage games using quarters.
The toys, games, comic books, video games, action figures, dolls, lunch boxes, collectibles, and more for sale in The Toybox are all things Davidson has collected for the store. He also welcomes people to bring in vintage toys in good condition for consignment sales or he may purchase them.
“All in here is done from the ground up,” he said of the store. “I’m not ready to sell any of my own collection yet.”
And visitors to the store won’t see the same things all the time. Davidson will change up his inventory on a regular basis. The Toybox features an ever-changing mix of nostalgic items that span generations, including a 1936 Monopoly game and 1966 Mandrake board game.
Davidson also makes dioramas, including Frankenstein’s lab, “Harry Potter” scenes, and anything fantasy. He also enjoys drawing and painting. A mural that spans the counter at the front of the store was painted by Davidson.
Music is another passion. Davidson went from playing drums to guitar, bass, piano, dobro, harmonica, mandolin and banjo. He also sings and writes songs. His full-time job is at the Wohlfahrt Haus Dinner Theatre in Wytheville, where he is an actor, musician and all-around helper at whatever needs doing, he said.
Davidson is one of four children born to Mack and Annette Roark Davidson of Saltville. His father was a musician who passed his love of music on to his children. His sister, Stacy, sings; his brother, Carlton, plays the drums in Davidson’s band; and his brother, Clay, plays guitar and sings. Carlton is also a musician and a toy collector and enjoys going on the hunt with his brother.
“It’s very exciting,” he said. “I love going on toy collection runs. If you only find one thing, it’s worth it.”
Davidson’s wife, Jessica, who works full time at Scholle, writes poetry and song lyrics, and has performed on stage with her husband, said she never thought of herself as a toy collector until Arnold took it up.
“I didn’t think I was until his stuff started getting over on my side,” she said.
Then he began finding her things that brought back great childhood memories.
“He’d say, ‘Here, this came for you.’ And I would open it and say, ‘Wow! I remember that!’ My favorite thing he found was a Cabbage Patch doll still in the box. He said it can’t be touched. But I took it out and giggled over it and then put it back. I got it out and smelled it. I don’t think the Cabbage Patch dolls ever lose that smell.”
Jessica grew up in Rich Valley and remembers the corner store where the old folks gathered, and Hardee’s where other groups gathered.
“I kind of wanted to create a spot like that, where people will like to gather and reminisce,” she said.
That’s why the Davidson’s set up a game table in the store for people to sit and play games or just talk.
Folks can come in and play Dungeons and Dragons or other board games, enjoy pool on a billiards table, and watch classic cartoons on an old-fashioned floor model television set.
Davidson said the town was excited for him to open and he and Jessica love the location at the corner of the Center Building. He plans to attend the next Small Business Boot Camp to learn more and hopefully win grant money to expand.
“We are so excited to welcome The Toybox to our Marion business family,” said Marion Mayor David Helms. “The Davidsons are a great addition to our downtown.”
A ribbon cutting was held recently to celebrate the store’s grand opening.
“GI Joe. Hot Wheels. Barbie dolls. Nintendo. These are some of our best childhood memories,” said Ken Heath, director of community and economic development for the town of Marion. “And now, thanks to Arnold and Jessica Davidson, we can once again hold onto our past.”
Look for items coming for Halloween, including masks and horror stories.
Glenna Crabtree-Bullins contributed to this story.
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