Though born in Atlanta, Spivey was raised in Birmingham from 7th grade on. He had an early love for model airplanes after his father brought home a silk-covered Japanese model flyer from the 1933 World's Fair in Chicago. He started building his own planes, and, in 1938 finally surpassed the flights of his first Japanese model with his own tissue and balsa wood creation. Also that summer, which he remembers as his favorite, he read over 300 books from the Sylacauga Library.
While a student at Phillips High School he started a model airplane club called the Steel City Model Manglers that met at the Downtown YMCA on 20th Street North. Spivey graduated in 1944, having been a star athlete on the track team with a state record of 50.2 seconds in the 440-yard dash. He then went to the University of Alabama and graduated in 1950 with a degree in aeronautical engineering.
He opened his first store on Tuscaloosa Avenue in 1947 before moving to the West End Theater right across the street three years later. His business grew to the point that he once had 16 stores all around the area, but over time, he focussed mainly on his main store in West End.
That main store was open for 55 years and became a community landmark. His store was best known for stocking model airplanes, and for giving away candy to young customers. In 1996 Spivey listed the 10 toys that he believes every child should have: a tricycle, a bicycle, a wagon, a doll, some kind of car, a train, a set of dishes, a good board game, a model airplane, and a teddy bear.
Declining sales in the 1990s forced him to plan launching a website to capture sales losts to catalogs and the internet.
In 2005, Spivey's West End store was destroyed by fire. Originally Spivey, who thought his insurance had been canceled, did not plan to reopen, but after an agent surfaced, and following the urging of hundreds of loyal customers, he decided to start anew in his former warehouse at 1509 Lomb Avenue. After some difficulty with closing his permit, he managed to open the store just before Christmas of that year and remained open, though only on weekends, for much of 2006.
Spivey, a long time Homewood resident, died on Wednesday November 29, 2006 after a long illness, which kept him away from the store. He was survived by his wife Carolyn, whom he met in high school, three children and several grandchildren. He is interred at Elmwood Cemetery.
- Norris, Toraine (December 2, 2006) "Herman Spivey, Birmingham's loving 'toyman', dies at age 79." The Birmingham News
- Norris, Toraine (December 16, 2005) "Encouraged by customers, Spivey back in business." The Birmingham News
- Norris, Toraine (July 14, 2005) "Spivey to reopen toy and hobby shop Showcase galleries planned for new West End store." The Birmingham News
- Norris, Toraine (June 3, 2005) "Spivey's hobby store burns." The Birmingham News
- "Toying with the net: From mom-and-pop to huge chains, toy stores follow shoppers to internet. (October 1, 2000) The Birmingham News
- Raabe, Nancy (December 18, 1996) "The toy man Spivey knows kids better than anyone but Santa." The Birmingham News
- Ruisi, Anne (June 8, 1994) "Just a Chat, Bessemer Cutoff, West, Herman Spivey." The Birmingham News