Behind the Scenes: Bet on Big Fun at the Short North’s new gag gift hot spot

By Columbus Alive
From the May 30, 2013 edition

If you only read Playboy for the articles, you have probably heard of Big Fun.

In 2009 the porno pub picked the Cleveland toy shop for its list of the coolest stores in America. Being named one of the 20 (which included another Ohio cool-shopping mainstay, Cincinnati’s Jungle Jim’s) was a huge point of pride for the store’s owner, Steve Presser. It was also a point of confusion for readers who flipped through Playboy for more than just the articles.

“Some people thought we were an adult toy store,” Presser said, laughing.

Yes, Big Fun caters to adults, but the only sexy underwear you’ll find here is made for squirrels. Oh, and there’s also underpants in a can — for emergencies.

Big Fun is opening a location in the former Europia spot in the Short North this weekend. Brimming with gag gifts and a few practical toys (anyone want to fly a kite during Comfest?), the location will also be a bastion for nostalgia.

The Columbus store’s co-owners and operators, Trinity and Jason Williams, will purchase and sell retro toys from the 1940s to the 1990s — G.I. Joes, pro-wrestling action figures, Strawberry Shortcake dolls, etc. Y’all, Columbusites are really into the ’80s, they’ve noticed, and “The X-Files.” Represent!

Another thing the Williamses and Presser have noticed is how friendly Columbus is compared to Big Fun’s home base up north. The locations up there sell T-shirts that say “Cleveland. You Gotta be Tough.” The team has joked about designing a shirt for the new Big Fun that says “Columbus. We’re just nice.”

Perhaps some of that kindness and excitement about the store coming to Columbus is because it’s been here before in the ’90s in Campus’ current Urban Outfitters spot. Presser said Big Fun came back to Columbus because it could get into a space in the Short North, where it would be close to Goodale Park’s festivals, Gallery Hop’s foot traffic and salty caramel ice cream.

“It’s 123 steps from Jeni’s,” he said.

Big Fun will host local artwork during the Hops, but its ultimate goal is to let any kid at heart have fun and let loose.

“Before we’ve even opened there are nose and hand prints on the windows and cigarette butts on the ground outside,” Jason said. “We know we’re in the right place.”

Photos by Meghan Ralston