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Nerd-abilia Lives and Dies in Cleveland's Big Fun Toy Store

by Liz Heron

Choose Your Pleasure: The Big Fun toy store allows you to spoil your inner child. (photo courtesy bigfun@coventry.com)

Life as a college student can be stressful. The endless grind of papers, exams, responses, readings and discussions can really take its toll, not to mention worrying about lectures, financial aid forms, dating, national forests, world hunger, George W. Bush and how fat Stevenson is making your ass.

Doesn't everyone wish sometimes that you could return to the breezy days of childhood, when your biggest concern was where your next piece of candy was coming from and when the "Diarrhea Song" passed for witty banter?

Well, you can! The answer to all your hopes and dreams is just a short car ride away and goes by the name of Big Fun. A vintage toy store that's been in Coventry for almost 10 years, Big Fun specializes in "memorabilia and nerdabilia," and boasts an impressive collection of toys you haven't seen since you were five (think Strawberry Shortcake lunchboxes and switchblade combs) and toys you've just plain never seen.

Shopping at Big Fun is just like sifting through your grandmother's attic, especially if your grandmother had a collection of Inflatable Boy Toys.

Guaranteed to please both hipsters and geeks, the tiny store is crammed with weird finds that run the gamut from magnets of '50s sex symbols to Amish hand puppets that can throw a punch ("Vee ain't gonna take it anymore!" threatens the label.)

Sometimes the cramped quarters can seem a little claustrophobic and the wealth of merchandise overwhelming. One area where the staff doesn't skimp on space is the Elvis stand at the back of the store. Lovingly created to look like a shrine, it has something to fulfill all the Elvis needs of even the most die-hard devotee of The King.

According to manager Robert Sharp, the most popular items at Big Fun right now are the pooping pig pull its string and a "gelatinous piece of goo comes out the butt," said Sharp and the remote control fart machine. It's about time technology caught up with the whoopee cushion.

Purchasing these gems doesn't have to drain the wallets of poor college students; most items are pretty inexpensive, with the exception of the pricier collector's items in the front window. "There's one crazy collector who always drops an obscene amount of money in here," said Sharp, a collector himself. "But to do that, you have to have a bit of a weird streak." It is always wise to restrain yourself, however. One Oberlin student once spent $50 entirely on little multi-colored plastic fish.

No Big Fun experience is complete without a stop at the photo booth. Estimated to be at least 40 years old by the staff, the booth will shoot out a black and white four-photo strip of you and your friends for two dollars.

Taking a seat in the booth will put you in good company: over the years, a long list of B-list celebrities like Eddie Munster, Sean Lennon, Cibo Matto, Juliana Hatfield and the Tattooed Enigma have paused to pose. It has even seen the likes of a member of the Village People, a cheesy part of '70s memorabilia in his own right, although, "We don't know which one he was," confessed Sharp.

Big Fun owner Steve Presser created the vintage mecca after becoming fed up with his stressful life as a stockbroker. Instead of waiting for your midlife crisis, blow off steam now and make a trip to Big Fun. Bring a fat wallet and your inner child.

Big Fun is located on 1827 Coventry Rd. in Cleveland

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Copyright © 2000, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 129, Number 7, November 3, 2000

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