Mischief Makers

Grand Avenue toy store owners know you’re never too old for fun and games.

Any store that sells black licorice pipes, Choward’s violet gum and waxed candy lips and has a hammock swinging in the front yard automatically gets bonus points. Grand Avenue’s Mischief Toy Store features games, comics, art supplies, pop culture and anime gifts, outdoor adventure gear, jewelry and kinetic toys.

Dan Marshall and his wife, Millie Adelsheim, operate the toy store with their four children, from 4 to 20 years old, who assist with toy testing, running magic events and procuring comic books and novels. Open since October 2015, Marshall says community support hasn’t waned. “It’s been really strong,” he says. “Teens and young adults really seem to connect with what we’re doing here.”

Marshall says Mischief’s mission is twofold. “Teens and young adults just had no place to find toys they were interested in,” he says, explaining the desire to design a store that met those needs. Secondly, Marshall and Adelsheim are intentional in representing all types of buyers, which includes offering a diverse selection of characters in novels, comic books and toys. Everyone who steps into the shop should be able to find relatable items. “People of all ages enjoy a good toy,” Marshall says, noting a toy can help develop a new skill, elicit a memory or facilitate an adventure. “I think play is the way people learn,” Marshall says. “The things they learn the best are from play–it is an invitation to expand themselves.”

Marshall notes a few trends in the toy biz, including more attention to gender equity. Previously, he notes, chemistry sets were adorned with images of boys on the boxes. Today, girls have joined them, and sets geared toward girls just don’t include perfume-making kits—how about discovering how molecules form or examining chemical reactions? Marshall adds that some toys are leaving the shelves earlier than others. “There’s a strong drive toward more open-ended kinds of kits that you can create things beyond what’s on the box,” he says, adding “We’re in the middle of the board-game curve.”

Mischief rides the board game wave by featuring special events in the store’s upper-level game room. “It’s been really phenomenal,” Marshall says. “It’s been really fun to bring people together.” Events including Friday evenings slotted for Magic: The Gathering, the Feminist Comic Book Club, free play games, where players can choose games from the lending library, and other special events.

Debating the draw of screens (cell phones, computers, tablets, televisions or otherwise) is not a new conversation. It seems the number of game apps multiplies exponentially, but Marshall doesn’t view them as competition. “Our feeling is that screens, in the last 10 years, have become so ubiquitous,” he says, “it’s actually exciting to do something offline.”

Top picks

Whether it’s for Valentine’s Day, a birthday or just because, Mischief Toy Store has plenty of go-to gifts. Co-owner Dan Marshall offers two favorites.

“We sell lots of Totoro items, including bags, pens, plush figures, buttons and little plastic figures,” Marshall says, referring to My Neighbor Totoro (1988), a Japanese animated fantasy film. “Totoro is hands-down the best children's movie ever made, and kids and grownups seem to love it equally. The plush figures by Gund are probably the most iconic.” ($24.99-$50).

Machi Koro by IDW Games, encourages players to construct a city’s infrastructure. Each structure, whether it’s a bakery, a wheat field or a café, earns coins (to purchase more structures) based on rolls of the dice. “Machi Koro is quick to learn and quick to play, and makes a great family game,” Marshall says. ($29.99)

For event information, visit the website here.