After the loss of the last Landis Labyrinth toy store on Larchmont Blvd. last summer, our Buzz hearts definitely skipped a beat when we received an e-mail recently from the Miracle Mile Toy Hall, saying, “It has been our pleasure to be your favorite toy store in Los Angeles these past eight years. The pandemic was hard on our business, as it was for so many, and we’ve decided to close our doors.”
But then a couple of lines later, another sentence tantalized, “We’ll share more news about our next steps in the weeks to come – because there is news to share!”
That definitely smelled like a story, so we contacted the Toy Hall’s current owner, Carrie Harr, who explained that she is leaving and officially closing the business this month…but that her current store manager, Christina Mullin, will be taking over as the new owner, and re-opening in the same location, possibly as soon as March 1. And Harr will also continue selling toys through a new online business called Cuckoo Clock Toys and Gifts, which is already up and running.
So not only is the neighborhood NOT losing another toy store…it’s gaining a connection to a new online shop as well.
Harr said the pandemic has been hard on the Toy Hall, not only with drops in retail sales, but because the live events it hosted, including both private parties and ticketed performances, have been completely shut down. But Harr confessed that she has actually been considering shuttering the business since before the pandemic began. First, she explained, she lives in the Valley, which results in a “realy tricky commute” to the Miracle Mile area every day. And then there’s the fact that she has school-aged kids, and she’s also one of those moms who “volunteers for everything” at her kids’ school. So she says she’s been feeling pretty overwhelmed with multiple commitments…and when COVID-19 provided another nudge toward closing the store, she decided to heed it.
Harr told the Buzz, though, that she was feeling a bit guilty after deciding to close, so she was thrilled when Mullin, who’s been with the business since its previous location across the street on Wilshire Blvd., asked Harr if it would be OK to talk to the landlord about negotiating a new lease on the space and taking over the store.
And as it turned out, the landlord was amenable, so the new plan was hatched.
Currently, the Miracle Mile Toy Hall is having a 50% off sale, which will run through the close of business tomorrow (Wednesday, February 10). Then the doors will close for a couple of weeks, and soon – Mullin hopes as soon as March 1 – the store will re-open as Miracle Mile Toys and Gifts, carrying most of the same “old school” toys and brands as before, but with the gradual addition, over time, of some additional home and lifestyle gift items. And the new shop will look much the same, too, as Harr is also letting Mullin have whatever she needs from the current store to open the new iteration. (Note that the new Miracle Mile Toys & Gifts website is still under construction…but there is a link there to a fundraising campaign for the new store, which you can also access directly at https://www.gofundme.com/f/LA-Help-keep-your-neighborhood-toy-store-open.)
“This is like a dream come true for me,” said Mullin.
One big difference in the new shop, though, will be that the business will no longer include the event space. Mullin has leased only the storefront…but says the larger event hall may be the subject of an “ongoing negotiation” with the landlords in the future, depending on how things go over the next few months. (Both women say the building owners have been very supportive and flexible through this whole process.)
Interestingly, this is not the first such passing down of this business. Harr originally came on as a co-owner when original Miracle Mile Toys and Games owner Christine Johnson moved the business from a smaller space across the street to the current location, which previously housed the Harry Potter and wizarding-themed Whimsic Alley. Johnson told us at that time that she’d been eyeing the Whimsic space for a long time, and when it opened up, she immediately texted her friend, Harr, who has a background in event planning, to see if she was interested in a partnership. They launched the Toy Hall a few months later, with Johnson managing the retail side and Harr the event space.
When Johnson left the business a short time later, Harr took over both sides of the business. But when the pandemic forced the cancellation of events, and cut daily customer traffic, Harr didn’t need to come in as frequently, and Mullin, who lives in the neighborhood, facilitated customer shopping by appointments, phone, and online orders, with curbside pickups. And now that Harr is leaving the business, it’s passing on to Mullin. “I’m really glad she’s getting to stay there,” says Harr.
[Note: this story was updated after its initial publication to add the link to the Go Fund Me campaign for the new Miracle Mile Toys and Gifts.]
About Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - with deep roots in both the Sycamore Square and West Adams Heights-Sugar Hill neighborhoods. She spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and is the co-owner/publisher of the Buzz.
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