With the official passing of my favorite little local store run by a sweet old lady, I could not let another day go by without adding another little local store run by a sweet old lady - Ethel Weiss’ store, Irving’s Toy Store in Brookline, MA specifically - to the Retro Roadmap. Just because she’s been there for 73 years doesn’t mean that things could change – so make it a priority to get yourself under the striped awning and into her diminutive shop.
Tucked inbetween two apartment buildings on a busy street, Irving’s has been a Brookline institution since 1939 and THE place to go for cards, wrapping paper, candy, souvenirs, snacks, trinkets, superballs, wrestlers, wiffleballs, doll clothes, games, banks, rubber bands, and a good dose of nostalgia. And if Ethel doesn’t have it, just ask.
We brought the Retro Roadkids here for a visit on a typical “whirlwind day of vintage fun” and while they scouted out what ONE treasure each could get, I chatted with Ethel who was seated at the front of the store. But no sitting down on the job for her!
She says that she gets a crowd of school kids in after school gets out, and many parents and grandparents come in, bringing their children and grand children.
(remember…Stealing is Not Cool)
I had to laugh when she told me that “the boys always like the swords and guns” because Retro Roadhusband and I were trying desperately to steer the Retro RoadBoy towards a less violent selection. But he was totally into the army men and swords.
I totally dug, as usual – the evidence of the logevity of Irving’s – like the various styles of gift wrap / wrapping paper, still for sale in the back of the shop.
And the ability to find nearly anything you could want – like some Useful Household Articles.
Here RRH tries to sway the Retro Roadboy towards a life of research with a magnifying glass. Notice the ingenious way Ethel has extended the display space in her slip of a shop, with items clipped to string? Smart lady.
I soon found what item I wanted to get, as a remembrance of this visit to Irvings’ – a copy of Ethel’s “Thoughts for a Happier Life” – written in 1994 and guarded by Carmen Miranda and The Fonz.
Stop squinting! I’ll share some of her tips with you:
Don’t try to be perfect. Just do the best you can.
Practice random acts of kindness without expecting repayment.
Show appreciation. Try to be a good role model.
Be interested in other people’s welfare.
Treat other people as you would like them to treat you.
Be kind, but don’t allow others to take unfair advantage of you.
I don’t want to share them all, then you won’t go buy one yourself! You see, if you do buy one, and you ask kindly, Ethel will autograph it for you, as she is doing in this photo below. I now have mine hanging in my “cube” at work, reminding me of our visit, and to remind me to “Enjoy being Myself!”
73 years in business, 97 years on this earth- we should all be so lucky! Reading the interview below, I get the feeling Irving’s won’t be around when Ethel is no longer, so visit her now. They don’t make places like this anymore!
Irving’s Toy & Card Shop
371 Harvard Street
Brookline, MA 02446
Here’s a nice interview with Ethel, via The Boston Globe.
View MA – Massachusetts Retro RoadMAP in a larger map