When Big Fun opened April 1, 1991, on Coventry Road in Cleveland Heights, it was only a collectible toy store, owner Steve Presser said.
Now 25 years later, Big Fun has become more like a department store, Presser said.
“I still offer many categories of collectibles, but I also offer Cleveland souvenirs, retro candy, jokes, gags and magic, baby items and rock and roll memorabilia.
“The store is over the top. When you walk in my store, it’s like Dr. Seuss met Willy Wonka and went to Pee-wee’s Playhouse. It’s really a pop culture experience.”
Big Fun celebrated its 25th anniversary April 1-3 at the store at 1814 Coventry Road. That weekend, Presser offered store discounts, special giveaways and entertainment.
“There are very few stores like Big Fun,” said Presser, a longtime Cleveland Heights resident. “What sets us apart is we buy individual toys and collections of toys. We’re constantly changing items and the mix of items in the store. I’m always looking to buy more items; that’s what keeps the store fresh.”
Big Fun was originally located across from its current space on Coventry Road, in the spot now occupied by Jimmy John’s sandwich shop. It doubled its space when it moved to its current location in October 2005.
“My customers are kids who either have grown up or not grown up and want to recapture their childhood,” Presser said.
Presser said he’s concerned about the future of stores like Big Fun and “brick and mortar retail” in general.
“We’re falling to the wayside because we can’t compete,” he said. “First it was the big-box stores, then the internet and now Amazon. So fewer and fewer people are going out to shop; they’re staying in and shopping online.
“I don’t want to sound like Chicken Little, but this is really a major concern for me and other independent store owners. People need to support local independent businesses because we are the fabric of their neighborhoods.”
Presser, a member of Park Synagogue in Cleveland Heights and Pepper Pike, owns another Big Fun store in Columbus. It opened in 2013 in the city’s Short North Arts District.