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John Taylor

John Taylor has been a businessman in Brevard for over 40 years. Among the many businesses he’s owned and operated: restaurants, a bowling alley, indoor sports complex, radio station and pizza joints.

However, he is perhaps most widely known for his O.P. Taylor’s toy store, which USA Today named one of the Top 10 Best Toy Stores in the World. He recently took time out to reflect on his entrepreneurial successes and failures over the years.

What’s with the life-size replica cows in your front yard?

Taylor: My wife was raised on a dairy farm in Wisconsin. She said she was a little homesick, so I bought her some cows to get that Wisconsin feel in Brevard. 

Where did you get them?

Taylor: The guy who makes the cows for Chick-fil-A made them for me.

What led you to open O.P. Taylor’s?

Taylor: At the time, I couldn’t find anyone to lease the building. It was a recession (late 80’s), so I opened O.P. Taylor’s just to fill in the empty space.

How did the name “O.P. Taylor’s” come about? Was it from the Andy Griffith Show?

Taylor: I wanted the name Taylor in the name and one of my employees suggested “Opie Taylor.” I said it was probably copyrighted. So, she suggested “O.P. Taylor’s” and the rest is history.

Any idea what toys will be hottest this Christmas (so we can all buy now)?

Taylor: Without having a “Toy Fair” this year (canceled due to N.Y. Covid restrictions) I haven’t seen anything that is going to be the “big toy” this year.

You have a massive selection of Legos at O.P. Taylor’s. How many Lego sets do you sell? 

Taylor: We do $1 million a year in Legos. They are by far the least profitable item in the store - about 25% of gross but 3% of our profits.

Any advice for the next generation of young entrepreneurs?

Taylor: Establish good credit. When you get that first credit card, make sure you can pay it off at the end of each month. Save a down payment and then try to buy a house as soon as you can. With good credit and some equity you can do almost anything. 

In hindsight, what’s the dumbest business decision you’ve ever made?

Taylor: Where do I start? I’m a total idiot 49% of the time. Thank God I’m right 51% of the time or we wouldn’t be having this conversation. I lost hundreds of thousands of dollars building an affordable housing project here in Brevard. I lost hundreds of thousands of dollars on an indoor soccer stadium and game room. The list goes on.

What’s with the twirly hat you always wear? 

Taylor: I was in N.Y. about 30 years ago at a toy convention and bought a hat like this at FAO Schwarz. I wore it home on the airplane and the flight attendants paid really close attention to me. I thought, “This is what I need for people to remember me.” I’ve worn it every day since. I came home from work when my daughter was about 1½ years old, took my hat off and went over to hug her, she freaked out like screaming, “Stranger danger!” I put my hat back on and she lit up with “Daddy!”

Where did you grow up?

Taylor: Sarasota, Florida.

Did you ever go to Disney World as a kid?

Taylor: Yes, all the time. It was $5.99 to get in at the beginning. We would skip school and drive over in my MG from Sarasota, do Space Mountain a few times, grab a hot dog and then head back. The whole day was about $25 including gas.

Do you think kids are over-protected these days?

Taylor: Absolutely. The federal government just banned swing sets and slides from public parks; afraid a kid will fall off the swing or burn their butts on the slide. They already banned jungle gyms, teeter totters and merry go rounds. Let’s go back to letting our kids play outside until the street lights come on. Give them a lighter and some good fireworks and turn them loose.

What’s been the most embarrassing moment in your life?

Taylor: I was surfing and lost my swim trunks. Lots of people were watching.

What important goal do you have for the next three months?

Taylor: Make sure my mom has a good quality of life.

What’s the best practical joke you ever played on someone?

Taylor: One year I got Stella Trapp at The Transylvania Times to put an article in the paper on April 1 that I had won the lottery and was moving to St. Martin. I got a dozen calls from churches that wanted me to donate the winnings because “gambling is a sin.”

Tell me about the restaurant you used to have on West Main Street?

Taylor: “Oh! Susanna’s” was a fantastic place for lunch, dinner and catering. It was screamingly successful because we had no idea what we were doing. We just gave people what they wanted.

If you had to close one of your current businesses now, which one would you walk away from?

Taylor: The Asheville O.P. Taylor’s store. It’s been a struggle, especially with the Barnes & Noble across the street. We lost our lease on that property, so the decision was made for me to walk away. After paying rent for 12 years ($1.87 million to be exact) and paying my rent all the way through the pandemic, they decided to make room for a Taco Boy restaurant. It will close on April 16.

What’s the naughtiest thing you ever did as a child?

Taylor: Poked holes in the upholstery of my dad’s new car with a pencil.

Do you have a secret you never told your parents?

Taylor: Yes, how the boat sank.

Have you ever made a purchase that you later regretted?

Taylor: The bowling alley.

What’s your favorite home-cooked meal?

Taylor: My wife Susie’s meatloaf.

Do you have a story about standing up against odds for something you really believed in?

Taylor: I was a ringleader in getting “liquor by the drink” passed in Brevard in 1992. At the time, we needed a petition with signatures from 1/3 of registered voters to get the city to call for a referendum. City council could have called for the referendum themselves, but they were chicken and thought that it would be political suicide. So, our team set up petition drives at all of the polling places during the national election. On election day we hit the streets with volunteers and a pile of petitions. Our signs said “Exercise your rights to vote AGAINST or FOR liquor by the drink.”

We were doing great getting everyone to sign the petition, whether they were “for” or “against” the proposal. Then at about 10:45 a.m., all of our petition stands were shut down and seized by the Brevard Police Department police chief and the city manager. By the time the state attorney general convinced the city manager and police chief that they were the ones breaking the law, all of our work was destroyed. All of our volunteers were gone and all the petitions were destroyed. It was a bad day.

The following week, we went door-to-door and started collecting signatures one at a time. It took a lot of time, and the battle against “Liquor by the Drink” was intense, but we got it on the ballot and it passed by 68%. So, you’re welcome for fabulous restaurants, pubs and breweries.

Ann Sharpsteen is a local Brevard Realtor with Sterling Real Estate Partners and founder of the “I Love Brevard” blog. She can be reached at 828-606-2141 and online at ILoveBrevardblog.com.

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