#HomeGrownStories – Melissa Cairns

Melissa Cairns, an Ohio native who has called Tipp City home for over 30 years, has created a unique specialty toy shop for all ages in downtown Tipp City. Cairns began as Cairns Collectibles in the early 1980s and included a mix of vintage items, antiques and specialty dolls and bears. Today Melissa hand selects dolls, books, games, puzzles and other toys which she sells out of her blue tiled downtown store. Cairns Toys has been in its present location on Main Street in historic downtown Tipp City since 1998. Melissa was recently interviewed for our #HomeGrownStories campaign.

On moving to Miami County:
I moved to Miami County in 1985. I’m from the Springfield area. My husband and I got married in 1981 and we lived in Montgomery County south of Dayton in the West Carrollton area. He grew up in Tipp City, so when we found out that the home we live in now was for sale we decided to put a bid on it. It was the house that he had always admired growing up.

On starting her own business, Cairns Toys, and the community response:
I went to Ohio University for fashion merchandising and business. After school, I worked in the buying offices for Elder Beerman. When I had my daughter, Kristy, I decided not to go back to my job but to have my own business. My husband and I sold antiques for several years and did antique shows. When we moved to Tipp City I had a few spots in some of the antique malls here in downtown Tipp. That’s what really got me started. After a while, I started selling other things because it was too hard to go to all of the auctions with two little kids (I had had my son at that point). When I had space in The Hotel Gallery, teddy bears were huge! I starting selling those because people were decorating with them. The room that I had with the teddy bears at The Hotel Gallery was paying the rent on the antiques room I had [laughs]. It was pretty clear that teddy bears were the way to go!

Then I moved across the street, just around the corner from here because I needed a spot of my own at that point. When I first opened my own shop, it was all stuffed animals with a tiny bit of toys. I mostly sold stuffed animals, from very expensive to very inexpensive teddy bears. When I saw that this storefront became available twenty years ago, I asked the owner if I could rent this building. I moved my business here over twenty years ago. I decided to make the toy business about half of the store. So it was stuffed animals on one side and toys on the other side. Stuffed animals lost their popularity so the toy business took over. We’ve always had a lot of followers — we get customers from all over Ohio and out of state that are regulars now.

Why she loves Miami County:
What I love most about Miami County is the community. Every town you go to, whether it’s Piqua, or Troy or here in Tipp, it’s really friendly. There are nice little quaint shops and places to eat. It’s not a big city, but we’re close enough to I-75 that we can get on it and go to a big city if we want to. Miami County is a little gem just north of Dayton. I feel connected to this community through my store. I’ve been here for a long time so it was what first connected me. It’s downtown and visible to everybody.

Her favorite Miami County spots:
Well, of course, we really like the downtown Tipp restaurants: Coldwater Cafe, Harrison’s and Greenfire Bistro at the other end of town. Sam and Ethel’s is perfect for the little “mom and pop” diner feel. In Troy we love La Fiesta, The Caroline, La Piazza — last night we were up at El Sombrero, so we love going up that way too. All of those are our favorites, it’s hard to pick one! The Strawberry Festival is a pretty big deal and we have our own Mum Festival here in Tipp City. It’s pretty cool when WACO Museum has their fly-in. I was just up there judging their Lego contest. The car shows we have are always pretty well attended, especially the Trans Am Show in August. We love taking our dogs for walks at Charleston Falls Preserve.

The most popular item at Cairns Toys:
Right now it’s the Fidget for your Digit Cube. It’s really popular, but not necessarily just for kids, even adults like them. It’s a little cube that you keep in your pocket if you’re a fidgety person. Kids are allowed to have them in school right now, so we sell a lot of them!

Cairns Toys
31 E. Main St Tipp City, Ohio
Facebook: @cairnstoys
Instagram: @cairnstoys
Twitter: @cairnstoys

Follow our storyteller and interviewer, Courtney Denning, at ThisOhioLife.com.