While ToyFest has evolved from a regional toy show for specialty retailers, based in Pomona, CA to a national show in Las Vegas, utilizing both permanent showrooms and temporary booths at the World Market Center Las Vegas, the basics have remained the same. The core value to the Western Toy & Hobby Representatives Association (WTHRA), the toy industry community, camaraderie, and celebration are at its pinnacle during the ToyFest Gala where awards are given to respected industry leaders. The 2024 Gala will see the induction of four members of the WTHRA Hall of Fame including Jan and Ken Hatch, The Erin Griffin Group; Tad Kato, Wildthings; Sandy Lepire and Andrea Peterson, Sunshine Sales; and Bruce Reynolds, Toyology. The Retailer of the Year will be awarded to Dinosaur Farm located in Pasadena, CA. The ToyFest Gala will take place at the Resorts World Lily Ballroom, Sunday, March 3, 2024, at 7:00 PM.
Jan and Ken Hatch are recently retired Sales Reps who worked at The Erin Griffin Group. Jan started her career as a sales rep in October of 2003 working in the Arizona and New Mexico territory. Ken started shortly after in February of 2004 repping Utah and the South Idaho territory. Jan’s goal was to provide the best service she could to help customers increase their toy and gift section. They successfully increased business year after year in their territories. Ken said, “My customers were like family.” Jan retired in May of 2021 and Ken retired shortly after in April 2022.
Tad Kato started working in the toy industry during the holiday season of 1979 as a part time employee for Michael’s Toys at the Santa Anita Fashion Park in Arcadia, CA. He returned the next summer and continued to work there full time. In 1983 Don Frankel purchased the store and made Tad the store manager until its closure in 1993. From there he worked for Linda Frankel as a sales rep for 3-years until Linda sold the company to Doug Cason who changed the name to The Toy Sellers Group. He concurrently started working for Wildthings and in 1998 he worked exclusively for Wildthings where he still is works today.
Sandy Lepire and Andrea Peterson only had 2 years apart before they started their journey in the toy industry together. Sandy Lepire started her toy career with Russ Berry right out of college in 1988 in Orange County. Andrea Peterson worked for The Gap Corporation in the bay area. They both joined Henry Unger and associates in 1990 and were together from that day forward. On November 1, 1994, they started Sunshine Sales, Inc. covering California, Nevada, and Hawaii. They started Sunshine Sales with a handful of manufacturers and three salespeople. They grew to a team of 14 salespeople, expanded to the Pacific Northwest in 2014 and now cover California, Nevada, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Northern Idaho, and Arizona. This year marks the 30th anniversary for Sunshine Sales. Sandy Lepire says, “It’s crazy how fast time flies when you’re having fun!” The two have always loved what they do and the people they work with. Thankful and grateful every day is their motto. This past July 9, 2023, Andrea Peterson lost her short battle with ALS. Although she is not with Sandy and the Sunshine team, they all carry her positive spirit with them and spread “sunshine” wherever they go.
Bruce Reynolds got his start in the toy industry in the early 90s working at Talbot’s Toyland in San Francisco. In 1997 he moved to the northwest where he became a sales rep with Brio. In 2002 he moved to Rod Porter and Associates in Seattle. Toyology purchased Rod Porter in 2011 and Bruce continued with Toyology as an independent sales rep for the remainder of his career in 2022. Bruce had many achievements in the toy industry, including awards with Alex, Squishable, and many others. Bruce, love to tell everyone about the custom space needle that he helped create with Squishable. They were a huge hit! Bruce had the gift of “gab,” he loved to tell anyone and everyone about toys. Toy knowledge was his biggest passion. He was also an avid cyclist and camper; he loved the outdoors. Bruce lost his battle to cancer on June 12, 2022.
The 2024 Retailer of the Year will be awarded Dinosaur Farm in Pasadena, CA. David Plenn and his wife Shelly opened their store in South Pasadena in 1994. David’s wife was running retail stores for the National History Museum of Los Angeles, and they used her knowledge and connections to help get Dinosaur Farm up and running. They listened to their customers who let them know what their preferred toys were. They also realized that customers expected more dinosaur themed toys than they originally stocked so they created a special room for dinosaur toys. That serves as a drawing card for families outside of the area and even out of the state. The Plenn’s found that carrying books separated them from the big box toy stores. They paid close attention to carefully curate a special book section for their customers. Over the years, they received recognition from Forbes Traveler: 10 most amazing toy stores in the US; USA today: 10 best independent toy stores; BuzzFeed: 17 toy stores that will change your kids lives and a list of toy stores from around the world; LA Parent: Best Toy Store; and Pasadena Weekly: Best Toy Store for the last 15 years. The dinosaur is still roaming the Earth, there are no signs of extinction yet for these owners.
To read about the many other outstanding Hall of Fame Honorees, please click the links below.
All attendees and exhibitors with a booth, landing pad, or showroom package are free to attend the ToyFest Gala. All others may purchase a $50 ToyFest All Access Pass through the exhibitor portal of ToyFestUS.com Attendee Registration is currently open for Buyers, Buyer Guests, Media, and R&D. All others are considered exhibitors. Exhibitor Registration will stay open through February. More details about the show will be made available as plans are finalized including the Seminar Speakers, Game Night and Morning Masterpieces, Show Sponsors, and more.
At this time, the WTHRA Board of Directors and ToyFest Slate of Officers encourages retailers to register for ToyFest 2024.
Location: The Expo at World Market Center Resorts World Hotel
Dates and times for ToyFest 2024 are:
Sunday, March 3, 9:00 am – 6:00 pm
Monday, March 4, 9:00 am – 6:00 pm
Tuesday, March 5, 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
ToyFest is hosted by the Western Toy & Hobby Representatives Association (WTHRA).