By Christopher Shultz

Imagination got us to the moon, built computers, made movies, wrote songs, and erected buildings. Imagination is what makes us who we are as a species. Cultivating this type of thinking, creativity and imagination for kids of all ages is the oldest toy store in Key West, The Imagination Station. 

Joel and Donna Nelson built their toy store 18 years ago with an $8000 loan from Donnas father; and according to Donna, he stills laughs about it to this day. It all began as a simple hole in the community that needed to be filled. With Donna’s educational background, Joel’s enthusiasm and the local kids needing a spot to shop for toys, they dove in head first.

“I used to be a teacher when I first moved in to town,” says Donna. “There was only one department store and there were never any toys on the shelves except around Christmas.

We all had to choose from the same toys for birthday parties.  I used to have a bird store and I was a teacher and a mom; so, I decided I could probably put a toy store together and kind of know what I was doing. That was in 1992. We opened an 800 foot store and the next thing you know everyone was coming in and thanking us. We soon expanded here to this 2000 square foot space and have been here ever since.”

Donna beams as she talks about their inventory, “we have anything from toys for infants to toys for all ages.”

Looking around you’ll find everything from board games, science projects, stuffed animals, dolls, kids bags, shoes, train sets, hopping frogs, dancing giraffes, anything you can think of in the world of toys, it’s at The Imagination Station.

Donna loves showing all of the fun stuff in the store.

“The most fun part is finding the odd toys and games for people that they think they are not going to find.  Right now our best selling toys are the safari animal replicas. We have carried them for 18 years and kids just love them. Also Thomas the Tank is very popular and of course Legos!”

Watching the new kids come on the store is still puts a smile on Donna’s face.

“The best thing is watching a kid who has never been exposed to a real toy store. They have been exposed to chain stores. Wal-Mart or K-Mart where their mom takes them when they go for clothes or grocery shopping and then they go to the toy section. So, when they come in here and it’s all toys they just light up. I think its fun when they get to come in and look around and pick out what they like.  Our store is all about the kids and the little ones are just the best. Its fun when the kids grow up and come back and tell me about their fond memories of coming here.”

When talking about the future of toys and games, being involved with the children and teaching them is a very important part of the selection of educational toys at The Imagination Station. 

“Science has sort of taking a back seat to video games these days, but if you expose the kids to science projects, they love it. We have lots of educational toys and games that teach kids everything from engineering to science. Interacting with other kids and people teaches you how to share and communicate.  You don’t get these types of experiences with video games.”

Their contribution to the community goes way beyond toys.

“We have always tried to be here for what people need. If they needed ballet shoes we sold them when no one else had them. When ever we find something that somebody needs we try and fill it,” says Donna.  “We have always been a part of the community here and we support it. When you have three kids you are a part of it. Local stores are the people who donate to the community. We try and stress that with people. Support the local business as much as you can. We are here to support you. When your team needs a sponsorship or the organization you work for needs a sponsorship where do you go?

Local businesses. We have been sponsoring kids for 18 years and people have supported us. It’s very important for us to keep it in the community.”

From fun toys, to educating the kids, to supporting the Key West community, The Imagination Station is has exemplified what it means to be a part of Key West. Life without them on the island? I could not imagine that.

Join Donna and Joel to celebrate 18 years of business and being at a part of the community. On Saturday, May 8, There will be give-a ways, door prizes, yo-yo demonstrations, special teacher drawings, up to 75% certain items and special appearances from cartoon characters you know and love. Call 305.294.1852 for more details or just stop in and see them at 3302 North Roosevelt Blvd Key West.


Copies of “Good Night Ocean”, “The Crawly Caterpillar,” and dozens of other children’s books titles are available for the favorite tyke in your life! We all know there aren’t enough of these to go around at bedtime.



Donna used to play “Fill the Dinosaur” with Morgan. By the time she was six-years old, the dinosaur was loaded with about $90!



Morgan and Donna show us there’s plenty of room to test the toys in the aisle.



Ahoy, matey! At Imagination Station there’s plenty of cool gear to provoke the playful spirit in your child’s bedroom.



Morgan rocks out the peace sign over the latest kids craze, Rubber Bandz! They’re shaped liked animals and the youngsters like to trade’em, collect’em, and sport’em right on their wrists.



Star Wars
Perfect for the parents who passed hours locked up playing with Yoda, their Millenium Falcon, and C3PO! Star War’s costumes! Outfit your boy like Anakan Skywalker or Bobo Fett. Note: This cinematic – role playing does not have to be exclusive to October 31! 



Stuffed turtles
Stuffed sea creatures are just hanging around the Radio Flyers… waiting for a new nursery to be part of. 



Yo-yo’s know no age!





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