[From the April 2014 edition of the Miracle Mile Residential Association Newsletter.]
Miracle Mile Spotlight:
Miracle Mile Toys & Games
As a child Christine Johnson must have been a very skilled curator of toys and games, because her shop contains a fantastic collection of quality merchandise. It is obvious that every item has been thoughtfully selected. Her eye for detail is readily apparent, from the custom-made shelves to the second-floor play area. Christine is a student of fun with a keen insight into children and what entertains them (and adults, too…).
Christine is a bright and personable woman with a very focused and pragmatic approach to business and community. She grew up in Baltimore, Maryland and moved to Massachusetts when she was 13. A graduate of Wellesley College, she married an attorney who had family and a twin brother living in Southern California. So, after college she and her husband came west and, in time, settled into a home on South Ridgeley Avenue in the Miracle Mile. They sold the house last summer and now live in an apartment on Wilshire in Koreatown. “Which I like a lot, it’s bigger,” says Christine – space is imperative with three children under the age of 10.
Christine was drawn to brick-and-mortar retailing because: “ I like the idea of touching a product and selling a real product to a real person. And I think it’s important for the community to have those kinds of businesses here, because that’s what makes a community: interaction.”
Although the store has a website, she doesn’t sell online. “You don’t get the same community feeling if you don’t go into a store once in awhile – especially with toys. When you’re online buying toys you’re seeing an abstract of what everybody likes, you’re going to see the things that everybody buys. You can sort by most popular, best reviewed, but you’re not necessarily going to find little gems. Or something that might have gotten slammed in a couple of reviews but happens be a really fine product.”
Although Christine has placed ads in local papers she has found that the best advertising is word of mouth from moms and dads. “We do a lot on Facebook and Instagram has been really good for us. I post pictures of what’s happening in the store or a cute new product and people find it by the hash-tag.”
When asked about the impact of the impending subway construction on small businesses along Wilshire, Christine was blunt: “That is going to be chaos. It’s going to be dirty, noisy, messy. They [Metro] can definitely communicate better with businesses and residents. They’re not doing well with that at all. Nobody really knows what’s happening or when. I can’t plan my business if they’re not giving me any more details. But I came into it knowing all this. I opened the business knowing that Metro was coming. That’s why I picked this spot. And I knew it was going to be hell – for nine years, potentially. And I’ve never been naïve about the challenges.”
She commented that subway construction will diminish already limited parking for merchants and restaurants in the Miracle Mile. Her store has no off-street parking and is dependent on the metered parking on Wilshire. “I’m sure it’s a barrier for some people, I’m sure I’m missing people who maybe found me online, then drive through the area and decide not to stop. But most of my customers walk here or live within a few blocks. And I’m able to sustain the business with that level of locality. I think the business will be able to continue based on my ‘local love’ – fingers crossed.”
Christine [photo, right] is optimistic that others like her will take the plunge and start new businesses in the Miracle Mile. “I have customers who come in – and it’s inspiring, I guess, for them to see a new business like this. They have their own dreams about their own business and they ask me all kinds of questions: how did you do it, how do you manage it, how do you do it with three kids? Starting a business for some people seems absolutely daunting. It is emotionally daunting. But if you can get past the emotional aspect of it, it’s a nine-to-five job –okay, maybe it’s eight to midnight.”
By the way, Christine doesn’t sell toy guns – but she remarked, “I finally caved and got water guns, but they’re behind the register. You have to ask for them,” she laughed.
[Note: The MMRA newsletter does not solicit or accept advertisements. Our support of local businesses is a matter of principle – for which we receive no financial compensation or consideration of any kind.]