Have big fun in little coventry

Jenna Gerling

What do “Pee Wee’s Playhouse,” The Raisinettes, My Little Pony and Star Wars have in common?

The answer: Coventry’s widely known circus of a store: Big Fun.

Who could ask for more, but for a store full of retro toys and funny gags? The funky shop caters to the young and the old with an overwhelmingly large assortment items like plastic roaches, fake mustaches, farting putty and affordable figurines and collectibles.

Owner and founder Steve Presser opened the store in 1990 as a collector of old toys.

Before the opening of Big Fun, Presser remembers one of his first experiences in such a toy store.

“There’s an incredible person named Ted Frankel who owned a store named Goodies in Chicago, and the first time I walked into the store was like the first time you see the Wizard of Oz when it goes from black and white to color – it was that overwhelming,” Presser said. “As a collector, you’re lucky to see one toy used as an item in a garage sale or something, but Ted would find a box of 24 of a collectible and sell it.”

Under the inspiration and the help of a good friend, Presser decided to open his own store. Frankel helped and taught him lessons in finding inventory; he also aided in the christening of the store – Big Fun.

Presser acquires his inventory by going to old warehouses and buying people’s old toys, which are bought as one piece or as an entire collection.

“I’d be surprised if there’s any other store out there that has as large of a collection of ’80s and ’70s toys like we do,” he said. “I’m trying to make it claustrophobic.I’m filling up the air, so to speak.”

Inside the store, nostalgia surrounds every inch of the cluttered space. A giant E.T. doll stares down at you from a shelf; old packaged Garbage Pail Kids trading cards are locked inside a display case; and Albert Einstein, Jesus, Crazy Cat Lady and Male Nurse action figures have their very own wall.

A large glass case encloses and protects a huge G.I. Joe USS Flagg display of a battle scene – complete with a Cobra Hydrofoil motorboat and a Mobile Command Center. Behind the display is one of the largest collections of Star Wars plastic paraphernalia ever seen: Giant PEZ dispensers with Darth Vader’s head and an Ewok Family Hut set.

And the store is surprisingly affordable. While there may be a few pricier collectibles shelved, the option to buy an unpackaged version of the toy is usually given – for a much cheaper price.

Nearby, a middle-aged man stoops down to the plastic figurines of Princess Leia and Chewbacca and solemnly retells a story of when he once owned boxes of Star Wars merchandise, including all of the collectible glasses from Burger King.

“My mother threw away all of it and I could have killed her,” he laughed jokingly.

“When you walk in to the store, your senses are overwhelmed – just the sight of color,” Presser said. “When you walk into the store, the whole idea is that it’s like the safe place on the Monopoly board. You come in after a shitty day, and you leave smiling.”

The atmosphere inside this store is – well, fun, and a visit to the store is an adventure all on its own. Big Fun, and its wild, crazy, hoarded collections of memorabilia from the past are a new classification of toy store all together.

Contact ALL correspondent Jenna Gerling [email protected].