On Aug. 30, Sweeties Big Fun at Pinecrest in Orange had its last day of business.
A victim of the COVID-19 pandemic and the loss of retail sales, co-owner Steve Presser said he and his partner, Tom Scheiman, president of b.a. Sweetie Company in Cleveland, decided to shutter the concept two years after opening.
“When COVID-19 hit back in March, we took all of the precautionary steps that all good businesspeople would do,” Presser told the Cleveland Jewish News Dec. 1. “But, business for brick-and-mortar businesses has become more and more difficult as time has gone on. So for us, when we closed in March, we reevaluated where we were, saw the numbers, participated in the Payroll Protection Program, and could still see the negative trending of numbers. It became a point that at the end of the summer we would not stay open.”
Presser, who created Big Fun, a vintage toy and oddities store that was a 27-year fixture in the Coventry neighborhood in Cleveland Heights until closing in February 2018, said his time partnering with Scheiman at Sweeties Big Fun was meaningful and “great to try.”
“But, we caught a tough economy and when COVID-19 kicked in, it was like a nail in the coffin,” he said. “Tom has several businesses and partnerships, and Sweeties is his, and this concept was a unique stand-alone thing. He is a wonderful person. He also offered our key employees jobs with him and that was important to me.”
With the closure of Sweeties Big Fun, Big Fun stores no longer exist in Northeast Ohio. Big Fun once had a location on Cleveland’s west side. A Columbus location exists, though Presser hasn’t been involved for more than 7 years. But he said this is not the end of what he created.
Armed with his unique eye for vintage toys, unusual furniture and mid-century modern items, Presser said Big Fun has gone remote – with many of his items packed into his home office in Cleveland Heights.
“I don’t ever want to say Big Fun is over,” he said. “This is like Big Fun on steroids, packed into an 11-by-13 room. I was in business, this month as we speak, for 30 years. I opened the first store in April 1991, but had a pop-up event in November 1990. So, I have accumulated a large client base. I love unusual and unique things and I’m still buying things like toys, art, furniture and jewelry.”
Presser said he plans to keep an eye out for items customers may have sought in the past.
He said he can’t sit still, even though he might not know what the next chapter brings for him and the Big Fun name. Still, Presser said he knows he will always love people and unusual items.
“That is what keeps me going,” he said. “I don’t ever want Big Fun to die so to speak. But as long as it lives in spirit, I am happy about that. Our mission, for the most part, was you come shopping and leave smiling. We wanted people to feel better after they left our store. Hopefully, that is lasting. So, a brick and mortar location? No. But, Big Fun will always spiritually be here. I’m still out here, having fun and buying toys.”