Head Pixie

According to the Department of Homeland Security, all newspapers, when the holiday season comes around, must do some sort of feature on the year's hot toys. Seeing as we didn't want Tom Ridge hauling us off to Guantanamo Bay, we went to Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle's Toys at 4811 E. Grant Road and talked to Sara Chesney. She's been a co-owner of the independent toy store since May 2001 (although according to her business card, her official title is "head pixie"). The store itself--named after a Beatrix Potter character--has been around for about 25 years. Chesney, a 44-year-old mother of four who used to work as "something involving courtrooms" (she refused to clarify), has lived in Tucson since she was 7 years old. She spoke to us from her office, placing stickers on herself as she talked.

So, here's the question that all newspapers have to ask: What are the hot toys?

There are several lists published by various organizations telling people what the hot toys are, and we probably don't have those toys. We wouldn't carry a Brats Runway Disco Doll, because you can't do anything with them. They require no imagination. So, to answer that question, everything in our store would be a hot toy year-round, because they're chosen for their level of fun, really. Entertainment and play-with-ability--that's what a toy is for.

OK, fair enough. Of all the hot toys you carry, what's the hottest this holiday season?

You know, when (the media) call up at the beginning of the season, I should probably say something like a model train, or something educational. But usually, it's some quirky, oddball, throwaway thing that I can't keep in the store. We have these handmade wands from a wandmaker. They're made in the Harry Potter, J. K. Rowling tradition, and he uses made-up words, but he's really serious about them. They each come with a certificate of authenticity. It's really, really cool. Let me get one É here's an Alivan's wand. (She brings in a box, containing a wand, a velveteen bag and a certificate.)

Wow. Cool.

Kids come in and do their thing, usually reading from a Harry Potter book. It takes a lot of imagination to take home, essentially, a dowel for $30 and have a kid be happy.

Other hot toys?

For girls, we have what's basically the anti-Barbie. They're called Groovy Girls. That's what you were playing with around the corner over there. They have all the accessories you would want, but none of that sort of hyper-licensed ick.

What's the weirdest toy you have?

I don't think I have anything I would classify as "weird."

Come on. You have keychains shaped as see-through women with fetuses inside.

You should see the people who buy those. It's not who you would think. Maybe something like the Mr. Clean action figure. Plus, we just sold two Underdog bobbleheads at almost $100 a pop. We have no problem selling nice baby toys and stuffed animals, but we also sell just as many "weird" (making quote marks with her fingers) things.

What's your favorite "weird" thing?

Probably the Windbreakers.

Elaborate, please.

It's a no-brainer: a plastic jar with putty inside. You pull the putty up and push it down, and it makes farting noises. We sell a lot of them to kids going to the movies next door, not that that's appropriate in any way.

Why do you like the Windbreaker so much?

It's a simpleton toy. Once you pick it up, you can pretty much figure it out. It doesn't represent anything, and it doesn't teach you anything, but it makes almost everyone happier than they were before they picked it up, which works.

What does that say about our society today?

Toys are probably the last bastion of just goofing around, and there's not a lot of that in the toy business, even. When pregnant women are showing flash cards to their stomachs, we're probably going down the wrong road.

How do you decide what toys you carry?

A lot of those decisions are made, thankfully, by the companies that make toys. It would be difficult getting toys from Mattel, Hasbro or Fisher Price. They won't sell to me unless I wanted to buy a whole container from China, and I don't have that much space. É The second layer involves the store's belief system regarding what are actual toys, and what aren't. Then there are my personal tastes. Somewhere in there is a system. There must be a system in there somewhere.

And this system leads to the selection of fart-based toys.

No, that's just one category of toys in the store. We have very beautiful baby and infant toys, educational toys and all the old standards in playthings.

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