Toy District, Los Angeles facts for kids

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The Toy District is a 12-block area in eastern Downtown Los Angeles, bounded by Los Angeles Street on the west, Third and Fifth streets on the north and south and San Pedro Street on the east. It is a multilingual, multicultural area that consists of one- and two-story buildings often painted in pastel shades and is home to roughly five hundred toy- and electronics-related businesses.

Beginnings

Before the arrival of the first toy merchants, the area was considered to be part simply of a Los Angeles skid row – an impoverished area habituated by the homeless – and one contemporary account described it as lying between Third, Fifth and Main streets and the Los Angeles River. Taiwanese and Vietnamese immigrants of Chinese descent opened up the first toy stores in the early 1980s, and at first these merchants sold toys only during holiday periods. Among them was the Woo family, and the most successful entrepreneur of that clan was Charles Woo, born in Hong Kong and settling in Los Angeles as a teenager in 1968. Woo was a physics student at UCLA when he took a summer off to help other family members launch ABC Toys, a wholesale business later operated by Shu Woo. By 1998 Woo and his family owned 10 Toy District buildings and a distribution company, Mega Toys, with $30 million in annual sales. Charles Woo was later considered to be the Toy District's "founding father." Woo said he built up the Toy District by encouraging other Asian-immigrant entrepreneurs who were buying toys from him to open their own businesses in the district.

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