Steve Presser: “The Big Kahuna”

I was born in 1957 and grew up a sixties kid. I had a great childhood, filled with wonderful memories. My bike of choice back then was a classic Schwinn Stingray Fastback. Me and the boys used to tool around the neighborhood being “boys.” I was hooked on Saturday morning cartoons like everybody else, but probably was more influenced by my favorite TV shows of that era: Batman, Get Smart, The Munsters, The Addams Family, Lost in Space, and Twilight Zone (just to name a few). You get the picture. I loved school and learning. Yes, I was also the class clown. Nostalgia was always a part of my life, from watching classic old movies with my Dad to checking out old items that neighbors and relatives had in their homes. Eventually I graduated from Cleveland Heights High School in 1976 and went to the University of Michigan where I graduated with a BS in Psychology.

I had some crazy summer jobs from parking cars for three years at Thitledown Racetrack to working for the State of Ohio Highway Department. My first real job post college was working in an intermediate care facility for the mentally and developmentally disabled. I loved that job and the people who were part of it. I continued my involvement with the organization after I left the job as a volunteer, as a board member and finally as board president.

I then met the “woman of my dreams.” Let me clarify that. I finally asked out the woman that I dreamed/lusted about since I was 13 (more than 11 years for the first date). Debbie Apple. At the time I was starting a new life and a new job all at the same time. A stockbroker with Paine Webber. Yes, a suit and a tie every day for more than seven years.

I always collected “things,” but started going to house sales on a regular basis. I was known as the “house sale maniac” and a local TV show, PM Magazine even did a feature on me. At the end of my career as a stockbroker, I started a construction company that dealt with renovation and rehab for people with disabilities, called Access Design Group. We had it for several years and I’m proud of the work/education we did.

Then I had one of those “A ha ” moments. In my case, maybe it was a Ha Ha moment. My girlfriend Debbie and I were visiting Chicago and at the urging of one of our friends, I stepped into a store called GOODIES. Folks, do you remember the first time you saw The Wizard of Oz and it went from the black and white to color? I had that same feeling in this store. I met the owner that day, Ted Frankel.

My life changed honestly. Ted became my friend, my mentor, my guru,  and he pushed to open my first store, Big Fun.

As time rolled forward on July 22, 1984 I married the woman of my dreams. I not only hit a home run, it was a GRAND SLAM. We have 3 incredible and beautiful children together. Arleigh is 24. Brynne is 22. Merrick is 18. I couldn’t ask for a better family. While I’m at it, I couldn’t ask for a better group of friends either! I live two blocks from my store and my kids went to Coventry Elementary School, just a block from Big Fun (sadly it is closed now).

We officially opened our first Big Fun store on April fool’s 1991. We moved to our present location, across the street from our old store, October 2004. A second west side store, Big Fun Cleveland, opened May 30, 2009.
I proudly consider myself a community activist, which sees the importance of strength in our schools and neighborhoods. I actively involve myself with organizations that promote the arts, sustainability, civility, and the support of local independent businesses. I hope you will do the same.