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Spielhaus Toys

1249 Woodward
Detroit, Michigan 48226

Kurt Spieles

By Amy Kuras
November 8, 2013

Anyone who has friends or relatives of a certain age have heard the stories of the elegance of the downtown Hudson’s and the toy department that looked like a dream come true at Christmastime.
Quite frankly, it can get a little old.
But as the holiday shopping season looms, those of us who buy gifts for little people might wish for a return to those days, while we trudge out to the suburbs for the fancy independent toy store or vie for this year’s hot toy at the big box stores.
This year, we’re in luck, and maybe a little of that old Hudson’s magic might rain its holiday spirit on us. Because in D:hive’s pop-up retail space adjacent to where the mammoth store once stood is the first toy store on Woodward since the days of that majestic old department store: Spielhaus Toys.
Spielhaus is the brainchild of Kurt Spieles, a stay-at-home dad of three daughters ages three, five, and seven. It was one of the finalists in this year’s Hatch Detroit competition and now has taken over the D:hive pop-up through the holidays.
When Spieles decided he wanted to start a business, it made perfect sense that instead of the wave of breweries and restaurants and coffeehouses vying for Hatch Detroit, his was a toy store – because like most parents, toys are a big part of his day-to-day life.
And, as someone raising children in the city, he’s plugged into the informal network of Detroit parents that exists in this small town of a large city, and knew that there was a real hunger to participate in the retail revolution bringing life to so many formerly barren corridors. And they would prefer to so without having to hire a babysitter.
"Families exist in the city, but we’re never talked about when we’ve talked about Detroit renaissance and bringing retail back," Spieles says. "We would not have wanted to do this ten years ago – I would have said 'let’s do a brewery' – but our life circumstances led me to really think about it, knowing the market and seeing how families are kind of taken for granted."
He chose downtown partially because of the free space from D:hive, of course, but also because it’s easily accessible to the growing number of people thronging city streets whether they call the city or the suburbs home. While families tend to cluster in the single-family homes and green lawns of the neighborhoods, choosing one neighborhood over the other would just mean shutting out people who aren’t from there. "We wanted to be there for families all over the city, to serve families all over the city and a central location is important to meet that goal," Spieles says. Furthermore, with the huge influx of office workers downtown, that allows him to reach suburban parents as well those who are focused on making daycare pickup at the end of a long day, not trekking across the city to a toy store. And the large numbers of young singles working at GM, Quicken and Compuware are already having a retail love affair with downtown – and lots of them have nieces and nephews.
Shoppers will find high-quality, well-made toys at Spielhaus, Spieles says. "Only one or two of the things we sell even require batteries," he says. He’s the first Michigan retailer for Grow Studios, an Indiana-made line of dollhouses, and stocks plenty of other hard-to-find lines as well as nostalgic toys like Slinkies and Silly Putty.
The pop-up has been so successful in its first few weeks that Spieles is already cooking up plans for a permanent location. "We’re definitely in this for the long run," he says. "We’re certain the results of this pop-up will prove that we can do this on a permanent basis."

All photos by Doug Coombe. 

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Related Resources

  • Hatch Detroit
    Hatch Detroit is a vehicle to champion and support independent retail businesses in Detroit through funding, exposure, education, and mentoring.

  • D:hive
    D:Hive is designed to welcome new recruits and assist existing innovators in the city, in order to grow and keep more talent in downtown Detroit.