Thinking about Big Fun's going-out-of-business sale

In the days after people learned the store would close, the crowds inside Big Fun have been larger than usual. [photo by Bob Rosenbaum]

Big Fun is about childhood—revisiting our own, enriching our children’s, and then watching our children discover nostalgia for themselves.

Big Fun is about commerce. It’s a tourist attraction in an unlikely place, and an anchor for Coventry Village and Cleveland Heights—reliably drawing more than its fair share of traffic. Its presence has probably enriched other businesses more than it’s enriched the owner, Steve Presser.

Big Fun is about community. Steve is everybody’s close friend, whether he knows you or not. I’m not sure he’s ever turned down a reasonable request to support a local cause.

Mostly, though, Big Fun is about fun. Where else in the world has had an annual pie fight? Even if you have no desire to own fake dog poop or a Hillary Clinton nutcracker, a circuit through Big Fun is always worth whatever time and money you end up spending.

When I’ve talked with Steve over the past few years, one of his recurring frustrations has been how online merchants were cutting into business. And more, the lengths to which people would go rub it in. They’d find merchandise in his store and then search on their smart phones to see if it was available for less online. Sometimes, they’d order it while standing right there.

We’ve been hearing stories like this for a decade now. But Big Fun’s demise makes it real.

I don’t mean to overstate the case here; there are a variety of factors that contributed to Steve’s decision to close the store, and this is just one of them.

But if you’re looking for a lesson in Big Fun closing, consider this:

At a time when so many people question whether their voice matters, the money you spend is, in fact, the most effective vote you have.

It’s a vote for whether you prefer the dehumanizing environment of giant retailers or the experience of shopping in any of our many unique, locally owned shops. It’s a vote for the very character of this community.

I’m not suggesting a boycott of big businesses; I don’t presume to tell anybody where to shop. I’m just urging people to be mindful that where they spend their money has an impact.

I could make the case for how much more pleasant it is to shop in small boutiques. How, if you pay attention to unit cost, the prices often compare well with the big box.

I could cite research demonstrating how a dollar spent with an independent merchant does far more for the local economy than a dollar spent at a national outlet. I could point out that many of our local shop owners are also our neighbors.  

But it’s simpler than that. If you want our wealth of unique, independent, locally owned stores like Big Fun to stay in business, you have the power to help. Try to spend your money with them before spending it elsewhere.

We vote with our wallets. Vote wisely.


Bob Rosenbaum

Cleveland Heights resident Bob Rosenbaum is co-chair of the Heights Observer Advisory Committee, and is responsible for its advertising sales and market development.

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Volume 11, Issue 3, Posted 1:54 PM, 03.01.2018