Heights-Hillcrest Chamber of Commerce Breakfast Meeting
On Thursday, October 20th, we went to a Heights-Hillcrest Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting where the speaker was Mr. Steve Presser who founded the very offbeat but delightful "Big Fun" toy store back in 1991 and refers to himself on his business card as "The Big Cheese."
According to its Facebook page, "Big Fun is a veritable cornucopia of delights, a cathedral of counter-culture, a warehouse of nerdabilia and nostalgia. We carry everything from vintage toys to whoopee cushions to wacky t-shirts. Big fun is stocked from the floor to the rafters?"
Mr. Presser talked about how he tried other professions until he found his calling which took place when he visited a toy warehouse and was suddenly inspired; he knew what path his life would follow. He compared this moment of enlightenment to watching the scene from "The Wizard of Oz" for the first time when Dorothy steps into the Land of Oz and it shifts from being a black and white film to a film of wondrous color.
Most of the items that the "Big Fun" toy store contains were acquired by Mr. Presser acquired from warehouses (often toys that contain the original wrapping and were never sold) that span many generations going back 80 years or more. He also buys collections of no longer wanted toys from patrons.
Mr. Presser talked about some of the challenges that he faces namely parents bringing their children in to play with the toys but not buying anything and often damaging the merchandise to potential customers using their iPhones to compare prices and walking out after realizing that they could buy the same thing elsewhere for a couple of dollars less.
This is unfortunate because Mr. Presser sincerely endeavors to "make people comfortable. You walk into the store and are transported back in time."
But he does use media quite creativity such as the time when he posted on the "Big Fun" Facebook page a photo of a statue of Mr. Donald Trump (naked) that had been placed in the Cleveland Heights neighborhood illegally and removed quite quickly. Word got around in a very short time and soon the website had 124,000 visitors. It brought the store a lot of exposure.
During the Q and A, we told him that we imagined that people who have immigrated to the United States must love his store because it exposes them to a unique aspect of American culture and history. Mr. Presser replied that this is indeed true and that people from Japan really like such things because they lost sight of "pop culture" over the years and are now reviving it.
He ended his presentation by urging all of us to support small business. He offered a revealing statistic when he said that there are 750 employees working in the Coventry district and if only 10% of them shopped at "Big Fun" then business would be quite dandy.
We got a chance to network for a while and talked to a representative from "Bojangles Entertainment, LLC" that has all clients from all local ethnic groups including the Muslim and Hispanic communities.
We also visited for a moment with Mr. Devon Turchan from "Talespinner Children's Theatre" who works with people from all over the world. A very socially conscious person, Mr. Turchan told us that one of his goals is to create a venue for people from other cultures to tell their stories. Needless, to say we hope to get together with Mr. Turchan shortly to see how we can support his worthy effort.
Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC