BELFAST—A menagerie of giant stuffed llamas, lions and giraffes peek out the massive windows on the corner of Main and High streets, a welcoming touch for the newly renovated corner building, which once housed lawyers and bankers. On March 16, 2018, Out on a Whimsey Toys, Midcoast’s largest toy store, re-opened its nine-foot doors to the public.
Deb Hall, owner of the 25-year-old business, along with her son, Bryant Hall, owner of Northport’s Pizza Permare, have been working hard to move over from two storefronts down into the new space, and re-establish a floor plan, which essentially doubles the store’s retail space with 2,200 square feet.
The Masonic Building, as it is known, is one of the city's most architecturally elaborate buildings, featuring Masonic symbols and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
After the building changed owners, the two attorneys, who had offices in the space, vacated.
“I wasn’t even thinking of moving, but when I was talking to the landlord about renewing the lease on our old storefront, we got to talking about the possibilities of this space,” said Hall.
After working all winter with the landlord on renovations and a full restoration of the building’s original doors, which were discovered in an attic, Hall marvels at the beauty of the space.
“People are just coming in to see how this place turned out,” she said. “Some remember it as the law offices; others remember when it was a bank in the 1960s. Our landlord did all of the work, so the walls and ceiling have been replaced; pendant lights and fans have been added and the painters even did a faux finish on the woodwork of the front doors, so that it would match the natural mahogany of the original window casings.”
As for Hall, she loves the light that comes in.
“There’s so much joyfulness in this space,” she said. The 15-foot ceilings leave ample space for large armoires and shelves to hold oversized stuffed animals, giant tent-like play sets and castles.
Now, with expanded inventory, Hall has some new items to reveal to customers. “We can now do more with experiential toys,” she said, pointing to a small “diner” playset, one of the most popular items she carries, featuring a kid-size “kitchen” on one side, and a table for two on the other.
“There’s also a puppet theater, where kids can play with puppets,” she said. “I always pick out toys that I remind me of my childhood, such as Slinkies, Magic Eight Balls, and board games such as Twister or Uncle Wiggly, because people my age are now the ones buying for their grandchildren.”
With the expanded space and toys, also comes more ideas to serve the public.
“We’re going to have story hour and Spanish classes,” she said. “We’ll soon be offering a place for birthday parties and in the spring and summer, we have an outdoor patio, which I am imaging will be a cool, refreshing space with some plants, cafe tables and a water element.”
Hall, who doesn’t sell any electric or remote control toys, has each section geared toward a certain age or gender.
“Most of my toys are fairly educational, and imaginative, such as dress up stuff or involve outdoor fun, such as kites,” she stressed.
She has turned the cavernous hole in the building, which used to be a bank vault into a sort of “kid cave” with stuffed dragons, snakes and spiders, a teepee and all sort of little hands-on toys.
“Boys tend to get short shrift when it comes to toys,” she said. “There doesn’t seem to be enough geared toward them.”
The store has a cultivated area for babies, up to toddlers, and into the teens. She said the range of toys appeals to kids just until about 12 or 13 years old. She also offers a handicapped restroom that will soon accommodate a changing table.
As Belfast continues to shuffles around storefronts this spring, Hall plans to hold a grand opening of Out on A Whimsey Toys when other tenants have also moved into the vacant spaces, so they can all be ready at the same time, sometime in early May.
For more info visit outonawhimsey.com
Photos by Kay Stephens
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org