After nearly 38 years of providing joy in the form of unique toys and gifts to tourists and locals alike, Newburyport’s oldest toy store, The Dragon’s Nest, is closing its doors at the end of August. Those that known and love the store are encouraged to visit and support The Dragon’s Nest over the next month by shopping for some of your favorite toys before they sell out. Pop in to purchase early birthday gifts, special treats, and party favors. And while it may be goodbye to the quirky storefront packed from floor to ceiling with wonders for all ages, you can continue to support the town’s iconic Dragon’s Nest online on their newly launched eCommerce site.
The Dragon’s Nest, a staple for local families and a destination for visitors, was dreamed up by original owners Martin and Donna Seim in the early 80’s. Based on a children’s book, “The Dragon’s Nest” Martin wrote and illustrated, the couple created a “land of magic and wonder” in the form of a toy store. Waldo, the main dragon character in Martin’s story, became the store’s mascot.
The Seims modeled their storefront after an old world curiosity shop—which remains the same today. Customers were and are encouraged to take their time exploring two stories of shelf after shelf of toys, crafts, and trinkets.
Martin and Donna ran The Dragon’s Nest for 25 years before passing the torch to their daughter Kristin Zarkades. Zarkades in turn sold the shop to the current owner, Sally Owen in 2014.
Owen, who worked at the shop, decided to “just jump” and purchase The Dragon’s Nest with her husband when she heard the news that Kristin was closing down the beloved toy store. For the next five and half years, the Owens carried on the traditions and principles the Seims originally envisioned for The Dragon’s Nest. In fact, Donna and Martin Seim remained the landlords of the space and have been mentors to the Owens on their journey with the store. While Hugo remained mostly behind the scene handling maintenance, accounting, and payroll, Sally is a well-known face to those that know and love this shop.
Together Sally and her husband Hugo have continued to serve the children, parents, and grandparents that frequent this unique toy store. Sally has watched as parents that grew up visiting the shop as children themselves return with children of their own. She has welcomed local kids that come to play and explore after school, on half days and during the summertime. And she loves meeting families that have made stopping in for a treat a tradition on their beach vacations.
“Our customers are really wonderful—kids of all ages, people who come in every week, people that come especially to Newburyport to stop in—it speaks to the uniqueness of the store. We’ve been really lucky to have such wonderful people,” says Sally.
And while the customers are a key element to the success of The Dragon’s Nest—equally important are all the employees and people that work so hard to give those visiting an amazing experience. This includes her delivery people, with whom Sally is on a first-name basis, and the toy reps that have helped maintain the creative toys that fill the shop.
“I’m so grateful for our wonderful employees,” says Sally. “They’ve been so friendly and gracious and hardworking. Customer service has been one of the hallmarks of The Dagon’s Nest. That’s what Martin and Donna wanted—for people to always feel comfortable from the moment they enter the store and we’ve maintained that.”
The relationships the store has formed can be seen in the heartfelt goodbye letter Sally composed.
The store has been a labor of love for Sally and it’s with a heavy heart that The Dragon’s Nest is closing. While the doors will close at the end of August, she will continue to sell the remaining inventory online and continue with select popular items beyond that. In the meantime, make sure to stop in over the next month to visit with Sally and explore the shelves of The Dragon’s Nest one last time.