Christine Johnson always wanted to open a toy store. As the mother of three young children, she loved watching her children play with their toys and sometimes even playing with them herself. She assumed her dream would have to wait until after she retired and her children were grown. Then, one day, dismayed after the opening of yet another chain store along Wilshire Blvd., and encouraged by internet chatter about the success of unique toy stores designed for specific needs, Christine decided to go for it. With no experience (she didn’t even know how to work a cash register), she threw caution to the wind and set up shop at 5363 Wilshire Blvd. She called her store Miracle Mile Toys and Games , named after the neighborhood she lived in and had grown to love.
That was more than two years ago. Today, Miracle Mile Toys and Games is a thriving small business located in the heart of LA. Christine hand picks all the toys after doing extensive research. She favors eco-friendly toys manufactured by companies with their own factories (no subcontractors!), mostly in the United States and Europe. Some of her most popular items include PlanToys (made of natural rubber wood and other sustainable materials), Brio trains (manufactured by the 130 year old Swedish company) and award-winning Lottie dolls. She has four employees – three fellow moms and a Marlborough alumnus/current UCLA student. A Mid-City fan to her core, Christine likes to boast that two of her employees started off as customers, and almost all of her employees walk to work.
While Miracle Mile Toys and Games is a relative newbie to the Miracle Mile area, Runway Boutique (807 S. La Brea) opened its stylish doors more than a decade ago. Owner Fatima Dodson was raised in the area and chose to locate her store across the street from the landmark Firestone Tire building. Raised by a fashion designer mother, Fatima worked as a stylist and sold her wares at the Melrose Trading Post before deciding to venture out on her own. Through her extensive contacts in the fashion industry, Fatima has amassed a stable of local designers whose work she showcases in her boutique. Like Christine, Fatima hand picks every item she sells. She is a fan of bold colors and vivid prints, and particularly enjoys putting together complete outfits for her clients. Many of Fatima’s customers have found her through social media, where she has an active presence (Instagram – @fashionfatima, Twitter – @rboutiquela, Facebook – RunwayboutiqueL.A., Pinterest – @rboutiquela).
Please join Christine and Fatima tomorrow for Small Business Saturday. The family fun at Miracle Mile Toys and Games begins at 2 pm and includes snowflake origami, holiday glitter tattoos and discounted merchandise (20% off Melissa and Doug!). Fatima and the Runway gang will initiate the festivities at 10 am with a live DJ and models, plus several guest vendors. If you’re lucky, you might even run into Hollywood Royalty – The Queen herself (Latifah, that is) made an appearance at last year’s event.
Guest writer Susan Watanabe is a proud Chicago native and a former television writer and social worker, who lives in Brookside. She and her husband, David, have a spirited six year old daughter, and two portly and ungrateful cats.