NAPLES, Fla. — Some places just make you happy. The owners of Pop Toy in Naples say they work hard to make their store one of those places.
The family-run business is a colorful collection of sometimes cuddly, sometimes crazy toys and collectibles. And it's not what the owners expected to be doing with their lives.
"The plan was never to be in toys," Sarah Beyrent says.
It was just the first part of Sarah and Gabriel Beyrent's business reinvention. Their story is part of a special SWFL Reinvented series on Fox 4 Morning News, where we spotlight people who start with nothing and build a successful business or overcome a major obstacle to reinvent themselves.
They Beyrents went to Naples High School together, and after graduation, they moved to Tampa to start a family and chase other dreams.
"I was looking for a federal law enforcement job," Gabriel says. "My grandfather had one, so that's what I was stepping into, but there was a hiring freeze at the time."
So he used eBay as a fallback. Gabriel grew up in a family that had a massive toy collection, so to get by, he started selling some of it.
"Within a two month period, I generated two and a half times the money I would've earned at a job I was going to pursue in criminology," he says.
It was momentum. Using his love of toys, and instinct for collectibles, the family opened a toy store a few years later.
But there were problems.
"A Walmart Supercenter and a Target Supercenter opened up within a mile of us that year," Sarah says.
That and the recession made it hard for the Beyrents to make money in their business. They closed it down and got new jobs.
But they kept selling toys online and they kept hoping they would get another chance.
"We knew a lot more about business at that time," Sarah says. "We were just like, we have to do this. This is what we were supposed to do."
A few years later, the Beyrents came home to Naples to give it one more shot. And this time, they knew they had to put everything into the business.
"You have to be consumed with what you're doing," Gabriel says.
The way to succeed, they decided, was to use Gabriel's instinct to find the next big toy, before anyone else did. That would set Pop Toy apart.
"We were five months early on spinners because we just saw it coming," he says. "And we can just move faster than corporations can move. We had Walmart supervisors, Toys R Us managers were in here buying spinners because their kids had to have them."
It was the same thing with Funko Pops. Gabriel saw them and told Sarah they were really cool.
"And they didn't sell. At first, they didn't sell. And I was like, well, they don't seem really cool," Sarah says.
"And then one weekend, it just took off," Gabriel says. "Within an hour of closing, we had 10, 15 people come in and buy a ton of it, and it went up from there. "
"It's such a huge piece of our business now, and it's the hottest collectible in the world. And we were on it before anybody was on it," Sarah says.
It helped Pop Toy develop a worldwide reputation. People fly into Naples just to go to the store.
"We have people email us from France and say we're going to be there in three days, can you have a few Micro Kickboard Scooters waiting for us in these colors. And we're like, 'sure thing,'" Sarah says.
It took several years to find all the pieces to make it work, but now the Beyrents believe they have the right combination of dedication and customer service, to make their business successful.
"It's a happy place to work," Sarah says. "It's a happy place to be."