Monday, July 18, 2016

Lisa Ks Book Reviews blog is proud to bring to you
Weekend Edition

This is a weekly online publication focused on connecting cozy mystery readers to favorite cozy characters by way of their town's newspapers.  

Today The Cozy Times is featuring the 
East Aurora Merchandiser

Summer heat getting to you? 
Maybe you need a little Christmas!

Let's see if the Merchandiser can get us in the mood!

Check it out!

Christmas in July

A new shop held its grand opening on Main Street in East Aurora, NY, and it’s spreading a little Christmas cheer, even as the mercury rises and the heat ripples from the street. No, it’s not an all-year Christmas shop, like those specializing in Hallmark ornaments or Christmas decor. It’s a vintage toyshop.

“We call it Well Played,” said Liz McCall, who manages the store for her father. “That was Dad’s idea really. Since all the toys we carry were previously owned and most were played with, some for a long time, they’re ‘well-played.’  He’s fond of puns.”

While the colorful jumble of merchandise inside might resemble items found at a flea market, the McCalls beg to differ. They don’t just sell old toys. They keep a well-curated collection of collectible vintage and antique toys, and clean and refurbish everything they sell. “Dad’s a whiz at fixing them up,” McCall said. “And my sister-in-law is our doll doctor.”

With a whole storefront jammed with toys from all decades, games, dolls, action figures, vintage lunchboxes, and even nostalgic candy, one might expect the spot to be popular with children.

“We get a few kids in,” said owner Hank McCall, whom residents may know better as East Aurora’s former chief of police. “They like to look. Some of the toys we carry haven’t been manufactured in years. Toy guns and cap guns, for instance. Back in the sixties, realism was key. Nowadays, I wouldn’t allow a child on the street with them. Too dangerous. They look like real weapons. We sell them mainly to collectors who keep them locked up in gun cabinets.”“Mostly its adults, though,” Liz McCall said. “They like to find the toys they played with as a child." 

There’s a lot of nostalgia involved. Sometimes they want to share with their kids or grandkids. And since East Aurora has such a history in the manufacture of toys—hence the nickname Toy Town—some of these toys were made right here. People come in all the time and say they or their father or their uncle worked on the lines that made the pull toys. And then there’s the collectors.”

“Toy collecting is a serious hobby,” Hank McCall added. “It’s one that’s easy to start. You can find some interesting vintage toys for only a few bucks. But it’s hard to stop at one. Often collectors will develop a niche. One might collect dolls of a certain era, or maybe even narrower: only Holly Hobbie or Raggedy Ann. Usually collectors focus on toys from the era they grew up in, but not always. There’s always a market for antiques as well. Value is often determined by the rarity of the object, its desirability, and its condition. MIB, mint-in-box is the gold standard.”

“But that’s kind of sad,” Liz McCall added. “Many of the toys that we have in the store, the ones that are in great condition and still in their boxes, they’re the ones that children may have unwrapped on Christmas morning, but then set them aside while they played with something else.  I guess you could say we’re almost like an island of misfit toys.

But what happens when customers come in and spot the toys they loved as a child? “The most common reaction we get,” said Liz McCall, “is they regret taking their toys out of the boxes or cutting out their paper dolls. I try to remind them that play is worth something. That happy children are worth something. That’s where you find the real worth of a toy. I think maybe our customers are the ones who haven’t forgotten that, the ones whose eyes light up, just like children on Christmas morning. Only they’re a little bit older and so are the toys."

Toys that are finding new life among buyers, right here in East Aurora.


Now this is my kind of shopping!

If you could have your favorite toy from childhood, what would it be? 

Thank you to Barbara Early for sharing this wonderful article with us.

You can thank Barbara too by leaving a comment.

Another great way to say thanks is reading and reviewing Barbara's books.

To learn more about East Aurora and its residents, 
pre-order your copy of

Book 1 in the Vintage Toyshop Mysteries
by Barbara Early!

Liz McCall grew up in a playful winter wonderland but it was never her dream to manage her father’s vintage toyshop. However, after he sank his entire police pension into the business, someone needed to help him turn his dreams into reality—and keep him from sneaking off to patrol the not-so-mean streets of East Aurora, NY.

The mood goes from nice to naughty when a nervous man, who was trying to have his antique toys appraised, is found in the shop with a lawn dart through his chest. Suddenly, Liz’s business plan is plunged into deep freeze, while she and her father find themselves toying with a cold-blooded killer who’s playing for keeps.

Now, it looks like Christmas might be cancelled for the neighborhood kids if Liz can't wrap up the case in Barbara Early's delightful debut Death of a Toy Soldier.

Available October 11

Barbara Early grew up buried in the snowy suburbs of Buffalo, NY, where she developed a love for all things sedentary: reading, writing, classic movies, and Facebook scrabble. She holds a degree in Electrical Engineering, but her penchant for the creative caused her to run away screaming from the pocket-protector set. She taught for several years in a Christian school before home schooling her daughter successfully through high school. Barbara cooks up cozy mysteries with a healthy dose of comedy and sometimes a splash of romance, and was a double finalist in the 2010 ACFW Genesis competition.

Facebook ~ Barbara Early

Facebook ~ Beverly Allen

As always, please leave a comment and 
let me know what you think!

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  1. Thanks, Lisa and Barbara. I'm looking forward to the new series.

  2. I love Barbara's writing, and I'm anxious to read Death of a Toy Soldier! Growing up in ancient times, one of my favorite toys was a "paint by numbers" set.

    1. I used to love those, too. Here's a fun fact: people collect completed vintage paint-by-number pictures as art.

  3. Thanks, Barbara and Lisa, for this fun edition. The Man From Uncle used to be one of my favorite show when I was young, brought back memories.

    1. I really enjoy seeing the old action figures! A little out of my price range to collect, but very fun to look at. And all the dealers at the toy show seemed very open to pictures.

  4. Thank you! I cannot wait to read this new series.

    1. Thank you! I'm so looking forward to this one getting into readers' hands! So much fun to write!

  5. What a fun edition. Brought back a lot of memories. My kids and grandkids can't believe that Ducky and Illya are the same person! New series for me, I have to check it out.

    1. That's really a fun part of writing this series: the memories. You don't have to be a toy collector to appreciate looking at some of the toys we all played with as children. And the action figures from movies and TV shows we grew up watching. Maybe it's something we haven't seen or though of in years, and all of a sudden, it's "Oh! I remember that!"

  6. Well done Barbara and Lisa! My favorite toy was a small stuffed dog that was well loved and frequently restored by my Mom and/or Grandma. My husband's favorites were the original Tonka trucks which now reside in our attic.