MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — One Mardi Gras staple on the Gulf Coast is Toomey’s. People in Mobile have been getting throws from Toomey’s from the ’70s, and now, the Mardi Gras store is recognized globally.
A Mobile family has owned and operated the store for more than 40 years, and it all started with a leap of faith when strangers started showing at the Toomey’s home to get beads and other trinkets. So in the beginning, it wasn’t exactly a “dream” for Ann and Jack Toomey, but instead, a “solution.”
“My dad used to travel the deep south and he would pick up throws because he rode for a number of years and one thing led to another. He started bringing throws home for his brothers and then his friends, and then strangers started showing up at the house and mom said, “That’s it.” And we moved into our first location,” said Stephen Toomey, owner.
The first shop was at the corner of Bit n Spur and Old Shell. As demand grew, the Toomey’s moved the store to Bel Air Boulevard at Cottage Hill. In 2002, Stephen Toomey took over and moved to the current 70,000 square foot location off Government and McRae Avenue.
“I have 4 sisters and 2 brothers and they’re all doing something else so they left me with the task of running the store,” Toomey said.
He tells News 5 there was no hesitation when his parents asked him to carry on their legacy.
He said, “The writing was on the wall so to speak. I was working up in Asheville North Carolina for the Chamber of Commerce and just decided to come back.”
There has been competition through the years, but Toomey’s remains a Mardi Gras go-to.
“We have always had competition and we enjoy the thrill of it, you know? My dad used to always say, “Competition keeps everybody honest,” said Toomey.
Mardi Gras seems to be in the Toomey’s blood, dating back even before Jack.
“His father rode for a number of years, daddy rode for 47-years. Typical Mobilian, we live and breathe Mardi Gras this time of year,” said Toomey.
Jack passed away in 2004, but Stephen’s mother, Ann, still enjoys seeing how far the business she and her husband built has come.
“She’s blown away. She comes out about once or twice a season and she can’t believe it,” said Toomey.
And he says there’s still so much of both of his parents incorporated into the way the family business is run today.
“They put in a lot of hard work. Raising seven children, she was a good business person. He was the frontman, just “Mr. Feelgood” so to speak. Treated everybody with respect and got along with everybody,” Toomey said.
And those are things Stephen Toomey hopes his son will do when he takes over the business and continues the family legacy.
“It was funny, we were walking on carnival day, it’s been, he was probably 7 or 8 years old and I said, “Hey son. What would you like to do when you grow up?” And he looked up at me and goes, “I’m a Toomey, aren’t I?,'” Toomey told News 5.
What started as a solution, grew to become a dream come true.
Toomey’s does a lot of online sales, and there is also a pop-up shop in Baldwin County during carnival season, Stephen Toomey calls Mobile Toomey’s bread and butter, and says his family never forgets that.