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Landmark Toy Store May Set Sail

If it doesn't sell enough toys to pay the rent, Corona del Mar's Toy Boat! Toy Boat! Toy Boat! will have to shut its doors on Tuesday.

The red toy drum that marks the entrance to Corona del Mar's only toy store will be a memory by month's end unless the owners can sell enough toys to keep their Toy Boat afloat. 

The the iconic Toy Boat! Toy Boat! Toy Boat! store has been around for about 50 years, and husband and wife team Mike and Lori Curtin have owned the store for the last five. However, due to rent increases and the dwindling economy, owning a small business has proven to be a challenge that may not withstand another month. 

"We are trying to keep the boat afloat," Lori Curtin said. "With the rent increase, the economy, it's hard to keep a small business going."

The sand is quickly hitting the bottom of Toy Boat's hourglass as the beloved store will be forced to close its doors on Tuesday if it does not sell enough toys to pay the rent. If the store does in fact close, it will be missed dearly, said Newport Beach Mayor Nancy Gardner.

"I think it's sad," Gardner said. "It was wonderful to have the store there. If I got a call that one of my grandchildren was sick, I could pop over and get a cheer-up present on my way to visit."

Many residents such as Tori Bushnell, who grew up on Marguerite, share the sentiment.

"I remember walking past the Toy Boat everyday on my way to school," Bushnell said. "I would use my allowance money to buy the latest toy."

On Wednesday, The Real Housewives of Orange County star Heather Dubrow ‏tweeted her disappointment about the looming closure, writing, "so sad, been shopping there for years!"

The Curtins have owned the Toy Boat chain -- which included stores in Newport Coast, Fashion Island and Westcliff -- for the past five years. Mike Curtin was the chain's operation manager for two years before purchasing the stores from the previous owners in 2007, but the couple was forced to close those locations one at a time. 

"We are trying to hold onto this location because of its history. We are just asking for a little help from the community," Lori Curtin said. "We don't want to lose the store. We are just asking people to buy something, to make a donation."

The Curtins are no strangers to donations. They have reached into their pockets for CHOC Hospital several times since their daughter passed away in 2009 from a rare from of vascular cancer. 

"We do a lot for the community, for the schools, and we don't want to see that go away," Lori Curtin said. 

But when she was recently asked for a donation from the hospital, she had to decline because of the store's financial situation.

Toy Boat is located at 3331 East Coast Highway in CDM and can be reached at 949-673-3791. 

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