‘Nostalgia never goes out of style’

Denise Wright

Big Fun offers array of memorabilia from ’50s through ’90s

How can you go from two months old to 92 years old in two steps? Easily, once you enter the enticing world of Big Fun Toy Store in Coventry – a store that offers everything from tie-dye onesies to over-the-hill books.

The eclectic shop caters to all generations. Big Fun’s “Candyland” features old favorites like Razzles, the fake cigarette gum, Pop Rocks and Wonka bars. In addition, the store hosts a variety of memorabilia from the ’50s through the ’90s. These items include Star Wars and G.I. Joe figures to Care Bears, Andy Warhol books and Bettie Page lunch boxes – and literally everything in between.

“Nostalgia never goes out of style,” said Steve Presser, self-proclaimed “big cheese” of Big Fun. Presser founded the store in 1990 after being inspired by Goodies, a similar collector’s store his friend Ted Frankel had opened in Chicago. The store was full of warehouse stock, products that appeared to be reproduced but were actually original products that had not been seen in 50 to 60 years.


Eastside location:

814 Coventry Road, Cleveland Heights

Phone: 216-371-4386

Store hours: ?Monday-Thursday: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Westside location:

11512 Clifton Blvd., Cleveland

Phone: 216-631-4386

Store hours: Monday-Thursday: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

“The first time I walked in here, I had to sit down,” Presser said. “(Frankel) said, ‘Do you feel OK?’ I said, ‘I feel too OK.'”

Walking into the store brought Presser back to a familiar place.

“It was like going from the black and white to the color the first time you see ‘The Wizard of Oz,'” he said. “It was overwhelming.”

Customers who visit Big Fun are greeted with the same feeling.

“I’ve had people walk in and walk out immediately because it’s too overwhelming,” Presser said.

You won’t find holes in Big Fun.

“I’m like a goldfish that outgrows his bowl and gets a new tank, then heads to the river,” Presser said. “You give me whatever size, and I will fill it. I’m even using air space now.”

Presser keeps his store filled in a variety of ways.

In the past, Presser acquired most of his inventory by finding warehouse stock. Since those types of sales are becoming a little more difficult to come by, Presser also relies on companies that still make the same products or new companies that have purchased licenses and are reproducing identical products.

Presser said they also buy a great deal of individual’s old toys, which are bought as one piece or as an entire collection. Presser even offers “finder’s fees” for individuals who offer tips on where Presser can find items to add to his collection.

“We’re modern day archaeologists,” Presser said. “We go on digs, and I like that almost as much as anything.”

Another element Presser likes is the jokes and gags section, which features products like squirrel underpants, custom-made fake vomit and of course, the Whoopee cushion.

“Do you really need to buy a Whoopee cushion? Well, if you sit on it and it makes you laugh, makes someone else laugh, then that dollar is worth it,” Presser said.

William Drake, a resident of North Royalton who visits Big Fun a few times per year, said he comes to the shop right before Christmas to buy stocking stuffers and other Christmas gifts.

“It’s chalk full of whimsical things you can’t find almost anywhere else,” Drake said. “There are so many different things here, that whatever you buy is a surprise when you give it. People don’t expect the kind of gifts that this place has.”

According to the store’s motto, Big Fun’s focus is selling “things you don’t need but gotta have.”

“I just want to make people happy,” Presser said. “You can come in with $10 and leave with a great deal of stuff you can’t find anywhere else – that’s the beauty of Big Fun.”

Contact features reporter Denise Wright at [email protected]