WEST JORDAN — Alton Thacker’s never been one to rest.
“I was a barber,” he said. “I cut hair for 47 years.”
Retirement was always his goal, right down to the stereotypical RV. “That was me,” Thacker said. “We got us a big trailer and headed into Arizona. Three weeks and I was homebound.”
A life of relaxation just didn’t sit, and neither did he. His second career began about 20 years ago, when he first gave a toy to a child in need.
“When you give a little person a toy that’s never had a toy, that changes your life,” Thacker said.
He convinced other retirees to get up off the couch and join him — and thus began Tiny Tim’s Toy Factory. Together, he and his volunteers have built and handed out more than a million wooden cars to kids all around the world. And over the past year, everything’s changed.
“Mushroomed, I guess is the term,” Thacker said.
He and his factory were featured on Mike Rowe’s ‘Returning the Favor,’ a show on Facebook. Demand for his toy cars skyrocketed.
“We’ve doubled,” Thacker said. “A thousand toys a day.”
Organizations, charity groups, cross-country truckers are all asking for toys to hand out to kids, which has led some to tell Thacker, maybe he should start saying “No.”
“Yes,” he said. “Yes, I hear that. But how hard? How hard is it to say ‘No’?”
So far, Thacker’s met the challenge. But now, these cars may be running out of road.
“They said, ‘something has to give, and you’re the one has to go,'” he said. “So we have until September the first, and then we have to be out.”
Essentially, Thacker’s being evicted.
“Parking has become a problem,” he said.
With so many volunteers, there simply isn’t room for their cars — they’ve started overrunning the parking lot, which is shared with other businesses. After the better part of two decades and over a million smiles, it may finally be time to rest.
“At what point do you say, ‘That’s enough?'” Thacker asked. “My first thought is maybe it’s time to close it down.”
But the man who can’t say no isn’t about to start now.
“I’ve got to think that things are going to get better,” Thacker said.
And so, he’s looking for a new home — a bigger space, and a fresh start. Of course, a bigger space means he’ll need more donations for rent, as well as more equipment to help keep up with demand.
“We would like to stay in West Jordan, but we’ll go wherever we need to,” Thacker said.
Though the future of his organization may be in doubt, Thacker knows one thing for sure: retirement didn’t fit then, and it doesn’t fit now. He may not be cut out for an RV, but he’s never once stopped looking ahead at the open road.
“If you want to be happy, you have to do something,” Thacker said. “And if you do something for somebody else, that’s happiness.”
You can contact Thacker through his website, tinytimstoys.org.