Devin McDonald and Jenny Stevenson, new owners of Mr Mopps

A couple with deep roots in Berkeley has purchased Mr. Mopps’, the venerable toy store loved by generations of Berkeley children.

Devin McDonald, 34, and Jenny Stevenson, 30, finalized the purchase Friday and intend to take over the store this weekend.

“We’re unspeakably excited,” said McDonald, who grew up five blocks from the store. “We have the intention of maintaining the spirit of Mr. Mopps’, which is having everything at all price points for all ages. That’s what makes Mr Mopps’ so great. You can go in there and find things for every kid.”

McDonald first learned that Mr Mopps’ might be closing from an article he read on Berkeleyside in April. The store’s owner, Eugene Yamashita, had been trying without luck to sell the business, and had decided to shutter the store after 40 years.

The news surprised and dismayed hundreds of people who had spent time in the toy store and many of them rallied to keep it open. Many Berkeleyside readers shared their memories of the store in the Comments section and the story went viral — accumulating an astonishing 905 Facebook “Likes”. It wasn’t long before a “Let’s Buy Mr. Mopps”page was formed on Facebook.

“We’re unspeakably excited.We have the intention of
maintaining the spirit of Mr Mopps’” – Devin McDonald

McDonald was sad to hear the business would close, and immediately got the idea to try and buy it. “When I read it something made me feel I wanted to get involved with it, because I love Mr. Mopps’ and I grew up going there,” he said.

After the Berkeleyside article came out, Yamashita decided to try and sell the business again. He hired realtor Jeff Auen, and put the business, and his building at 1405 Martin Luther King, on the market for $1.17 million. The store’s toy inventory was set at an additional $100,000.

When no one stepped up to buy the real estate, Yamashita agreed to just sell the business, said McDonald. The asking price was $175,000. McDonald would not reveal the purchase price.

McDonald has deep roots in Berkeley. His father is the musician Country Joe McDonald, whose songs with Country Joe and the Fish became the unofficial anthems of the anti-war movement.

His grandmother, Florence Plotnick McDonald, served on the Berkeley City Council. When she was City Auditor, she famously refused to pay a bar bill run up by a Berkeley mayor, according to McDonald.

McDonald does not have any experience in running a toy store, but he knows what kids like. He has spent the past 15 years working as a nanny for various families around the Bay Area. Stevenson is a hair cutter who works in San Francisco. McDonald plans to spend five days a week in the store and Stevenson will spend a few.

They don’t plan to make any changes to the store initially. In January, after the holiday rush, they will close for a week, do a deep clean, and paint. They intend to keep the current store staff.

McDonald and Stevenson are planning to move soon from San Francisco to Berkeley.

“I feel we are becoming part of the fabric of Berkeley again,” said McDonald. “I am excited to be giving back to the community.”

Find Mr Mopps’ on Facebook.

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Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman...