Toy stores are great. For about thirty seconds. That’s about when kids start going Wiley Coyote over everything they see, and it becomes less and less possible to avert the shaming eyes of the owner. But honestly, what did they expect? It’s not Tiffany’s; it’s a toy store. Shouldn’t there be some fair game out there?
Leave it to a Mom
To problem solve and personally entrepreneur a solution. Christine Johnson, mother of three, had attempted one-too-many play dates in less-than-conducive spots. And the nagging need to connect, parent to parent, it would not relent. And thank goodness, because as a result, we now have a neighborhood toy store where parents are invited to lounge, and kids, get this, are invited to play. Pull up a white orb-like stool. Stay awhile. Really. You’re invited.
Is this for boys or for girls?
Yes. Enough with the gender distinctions. There are no marketing angles at work here (short of the shallow shelving, which is remarkably pleasing to the eye and to the touch). Pinks and blues mingle as one. Garbage trucks nestle next to anatomically appropriate dolls. (Meet Lottie: a doll proportioned to to the size of an actual nine year old, and she doesn’t even wear high heels!) A curated collection of novelties and nooks all neatly arranged and theirs for the playing. Really, sit. Maybe bring a magazine.
Community First, Community Second
The toys are great. Exceptional actually. Christine’s product knowledge? Encyclopedic. But that’s not what’s going to put this place on the map. This place is Cheers. Just substitute toys for beer. It’s welcoming and circulates such a neighborhood feel that if you don’t live here, you leave thinking about calling the moving trucks. And there’s no pressure to buy. And no pressure to leave once your kid starts going to town on the Calico Critters and the wooden trains (that’s why they’re there, actually). How refreshing. A toy store, made friendly for families. Huh!
Love for the Locals
Habe, Spielstabil, Arklu, Haba…all those awesome international brands we can usually only locate on-line. They’re here. In addition, Christine’s got a substantial smattering of locally made toys that you’ll kinda want to steal from your kids. Like the make your own terrarium, from Spitfire Girl, out of Los Feliz. Or Chase the Bunny’s dolls, of Etsy fame. Her dream is to populate her store entirely of local innovations. We’d say she’s off to a pretty spectacular start.
How about Disney Princesses?
So when you can’t park it at one more park…
We love this alternative. An actual play date destination to meet up with old pals and maybe collect one or two new ones. The kids can hunker down at the craft area, or demo one of the many open toys (brilliant, seriously, where has this idea been hiding?), while you exhale your first exhale of the day. And maybe your first ever, inside a toy store.
Antidote to the “I Wants.”
Put it on the list! Parents, kids, everyone’s encouraged to join the Birthday Club – come up with their top 5 selections, and come birthday season, friends and relatives will have themselves a cheat sheet at the ready. All the while, a friendly lesson in denying that pesky impulse for immediate gratification. Sign us up. (Whoops, already did.)
These are the People in Your Neighborhood . . .
For a city so big we’re remarkably small on places to hub up and hang out. Family style shouldn’t be relegated to Maggianos. Christine’s intention was to open a store where strollers weren’t frowned upon and loitering was the part of the equation. She’s put her mark on the Miracle Mile, one that’s there for keeps, if we have any say in the matter. Come congregate with a pal, come to buy a gift, regardless of your needs, it’s always nicer to go where everybody knows your name.
Miracle Mile Toys & Games
5363 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, Ca 90036
What’s your secret spot for hanging out with the kids, when you just can’t face the park or paying for an indoor playground?
–written and photographed by Jolie Loeb