Every year in December, families and businesses across both Ohio and the nation celebrate the holiday season by sharing gifts with their loved ones. To most, this is an enduring, memorable time of their lives that started when they were children. Now as adults, a number of Ohioans are helping other families make holiday memories as special as theirs by starting a toy business. The eight businesses featured in this month’s Ohio Business Spotlight have taken their passion for toys, books, bikes and more, and turned them into unique and magical shops for local community members to enjoy.
The Dublin Toy Emporium started their business journey in 2018. Located near the Scioto River and Bridge Park area, the Dublin Toy emporium is surrounded by a tight knit community, perfect for selling toys and hosting events. Owner Enas Lanham wanted to have a store where children could come in and find high quality toys and games while also enhancing their learning skills. Dublin Toy emporium also has rooms available for schools and groups to rent out where they can hold music classes. Dublin Toy Emporium often donates toys to schools or organizations for fundraising events. Enas loves picking out toys that are personal and unique to have in her store.
For thirty-two years, Toyrifix has supplied Smithville children and adults with a wide variety of toys. Owner Lisa Massary loves to help children in her community feel inspired to learn and play. Toyrifix has toys for infants, young children, and adults. They believe playing with toys by yourself, with friends, and with your parents can increase imagination and growth! Toyrifix hosts several community events for children to come and try their toys and enjoy time with their families. Toyrirfix supports other small businesses in their area by selling their products in their toy store too. Lisa believes in giving back to her community and supporting the people that support her small business. Every year Toyrifix teams up with Children Services and they host an event called ‘Shop with a Hero’. This event allows foster care children to come in the store and have a fireman, police officer, or other public service figure to take them around and ‘shop’ for their Christmas gifts, which are donated from Toyrifix.
Adam Mullens, Lego enthusiast and owner of Brixilated, started his purpose driven company in 2012. Adam believes that Legos enhance good feelings and encourage learning in all ages. Adam turned something that he does every day into a business and said he turned his “Hobby into a Hustle”. Adam grew up in Dayton and wanted to use his business as a way to give back to the community that helped him succeed. Brixilated first started by doing group activities at local schools, businesses, and special events. Brixilated would bring in Lego pieces and each person at the event would help build a sculpture, encouraging group bonding and community togetherness. When the Pandemic hit, this task became hard for Brixilated to maneuver around, so they had to pivot in a new direction. Brixilated decided to make small town sculptures for people to purchase and build at home. With each one purchased, Brixilated donated funds to the University of Dayton to help fund students and staff for their educational needs! Brixilated also teams up with local substance abuse rehab centers in southern Ohio by donating their Legos to be used in therapy and help patients through their rehab process. They also donate their Lego sets to at risk youth centers to encourage children to learn and feel empowered by their creations.
In May of 2020, Kendra and Matthew Mitchell decided they needed to find a new source of income for their family, so they began their own business. Stuffin Fun was created so children could have fun birthdays while also celebrating safely due to the pandemic. On their website, you can order a toy animal, outfit, and stuffing right to your door. When it arrives, you can make the stuffed animal at home with your family or friends. The Mitchells chose stuffed animals for their product because a few years ago their youngest daughter was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance – and had to do it by herself. To comfort her, a fireman in the ambulance gave her a stuffed animal. To give back to the firemen who helped her daughter that day, they now donate one for every five bears sold to the local fire station in hopes they will be able to comfort other children too! Most recently, Stuffin Fun purchased a small school bus so they can start to attend large gatherings like parades, school events, and festivals where they can help their community make stuffed animals in person too.
Anthony Bunt began a new adventure in life when he left his education career and started Ashland Bike Company in 2017. He and his wife, Michelle, combined their passion for mountain biking with their enthusiasm to help their community stay healthy by opening a full-service bike store. Ashland Bike Company has donated several bikes to children in their community, and they also run a summer youth cycling program called Team Wild. Not only do they support children in their communities, but they also donate bike repair services to adults who can’t afford to fix their bicycles. Ashland Bike Company also made their own mountain bike trail in the area for families and other mountain bike fanatics to enjoy.
Founded in 2021, the Queen City Book Bank (QCBB) became the joint endeavor of two Cincinnati literacy non-profits formally known as the Literacy Network of Greater Cincinnati and the Blue Manatee Literacy Project. The Queen City Book Bank is a community resource hub that, at scale, will guarantee book access to the estimated 35,000 Greater Cincinnati K-6 students. QCBB uniquely empowers student reading advocates, including teachers, program partners and reading specialists, to select and curate book collections for their students via a digital portal. Clients will be able to choose books based on proficiency, theme, languages, backgrounds, and interests - incorporating the critical success component of choice into reading selections. QCBB will also train and place volunteers to become tutors for both children and adults and coordinate the region’s Little Free Library network. The 20,000-square-foot space also serves as a hub of information and outreach for parents, educators, and community members. QCBB works in tandem with their community to encourage organizations and individuals of all ages to become actively involved in distributing books and fostering a love of reading.
Simplay3 is a veteran-owned business that was established in 2016. Simplay3 specializes in toys for ages one to six years old, as well as toys that are specifically made for the outdoors. Their business model is to create easily assembled toys that are durable so families can pass their toys down for several generations to come. Simplay3 loves to stay connected with their community and the people who purchase their toys. Most recently, Owner Tom Murdough was inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of fame, acknowledging his 50 years in the Toy industry and for creating toys that encourage physical and imaginative play for kids.
Since Mark Bowker was a kid, he has had a love and enjoyment for comic books. In 2005, he found it challenging to buy comic books and collectables online, so he decided to start his own online comic book website. This online business quickly grew and allowed him to open a store front. Alter Ego Comics has unique products and a family-oriented atmosphere that the Lima community loves. Alter Ego Comics participates in the national holiday ‘Free Comic Book Day’, where anyone can come in and get a free comic book. Mark said they usually give away five to ten thousand comic books on that day alone. He said this is his favorite event of the year because it involves the entire community and helps support other small businesses in the area. Alter Ego Comics also helps local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops earn their Collecting and Creating badges by coming into the store and hosting events for them.
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