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Toy Boat store's finances adrift

Owners of the Corona del Mar landmark say they are having trouble paying the rent and if things do not change soon, they will need to close the toy shop.

July 25, 2012|By Jillian Beck

The large red, white and blue drum with the word "toys" lit in large, neon orange letters is hard to miss.

The distinctive metal sign is rusting, its paint chipping after some 50 years of being hung above the entrance of the Corona del Mar storefront.

But the sign that's been something of a beacon for customers soon may be turning off permanently if Toy Boat Toy Boat Toy Boat closes its doors.

Inside the primary-colored and nautical-themed specialty store — which, before becoming Toy Boat was the Toy Shop of Corona del Mar — the shelves and display stands are noticeably bare.

"We're doing everything we can to keep this store afloat," said Mike Curtin, 51, who co-owns the store with his wife, Lori, 39. "But at some point you have to deal with the situation at hand. The situation at hand is we are cash-poor. That makes it difficult to stock the store and pay our rent."

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The Curtins bought all four Toy Boat stores from Gary and Diane Naumann in 2007, after Mike Curtin had worked as an operations manager for the chain for two years.

The financial problems began in 2009, when the economy took a turn for the worse and Mike Curtin's 10-year-old daughter, Colby, died of a rare vascular cancer.

One by one, the Curtins had to close Toy Boat's three other locations: first in Westcliff, then at Fashion Island, and finally in Newport Coast.

In six months, the original Corona del Mar location was the only store left. And if the Curtins can't pay their rent July 31, they will have to close it too.

"We thought that by slowly closing the other stores, we could pull it off," Mike Curtin said.

Fewer Toy Boat stores meant less business, and the couple fell behind on rent and with payments to vendors.

Diane Daruty, 43, of Newport Beach said she reminisces about taking her children, now 10 and 13, to the Fashion Island location, where they spent hours playing on the Thomas & Friends train available for customers at every Toy Boat store.

"It's hard for a store like [Toy Boat] to stay in business because of the competition," she said. "But it's definitely more than just a store."

Scott Thomsen, 21, of Newport Beach moseyed into the Coast Highway store Wednesday afternoon, browsing through the board game section while looking for puzzles.

Thomsen, who frequently drives by the shop, said he hadn't stopped by in a couple years and noticed it was much emptier than he remembered.

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