At last! Detroit proper is getting its own little toy store for the holidays. Pop-up shop Spielhaus Toys is teeming with games, kits, plushies and top-quality wooden and educational goodies, all tied up in a 400-square-foot package – and here till Dec. 24.
But owner Kurt Spiels has a big wish on his list. "What I want to be is a destination downtown toy store," he says. "Detroit hasn't had that for a long time."
He's getting a jump on that dream with D:hive, a Detroit welcome/resource center. Its Pilot program gives select entrepreneurs two months to try out a business plan.
And Spiels – a former engineer and high school science tutor – is well suited for the task. As a stay-at-home dad of three, he was always trolling the web for unique toys for his girls, now 7, 5 and 3. Other parents were impressed by pops' finds.
"It takes some work to find it and research it," Spiels says. "I thought, 'I can do this.'"
His wares run a wide range, from wood playthings by HABA of Germany and sustainable stuff by PlanToys to U.S.-made games by Blue Orange Games. "We're trying to have something for everybody," he adds – clutch toys for infants, play vehicles, even Elenco's electronic Snap Circuits sets, prime for tweens and teens. There's a nice allowance-friendly $2-$10 bracket, too, while a rocking horse and dollhouse max around $100.
It's all set in a comfortable, creative setting with a bit of a forest feel, complete with a reading nook (kids' books are for sale, too) and space for coloring, crafts and playing with demo toys. Spiels hopes to host a few events like story times, a magician, puppet-making workshop and children's musician, too.
Product safety is key, Spiels says, so he's choosy about brands – and he's working to bring in local designers and toy creators. There's a definite Michigan vibe, as well (his line of realistic stuffed animals are all creatures native to the state).
"We've lived in Detroit for 12 years. We're proud Detroiters," Spiels says. "There's nothing like this in Detroit." He hopes to have a permanent home in the next year or so.