Ethel Weiss, the owner of Irving's Toy & Card Shop in Brookline, turns 99 years old Friday. Photo by Brock Parker.
The price of the penny candy is up to 10 cents, but not much else has changed at the small toy shop Ethel Weiss has been running near Brookline’s Coolidge Corner for 74 years.
Instead of videogames, kids looking for toys in Irving’s Toy & Card Shop will find what Weiss calls old fashioned toys such as slinkys, silly putty, wood paddle ball, green army men and finger traps.
Weiss would know a thing or two about old fashioned toys.
Friday is her 99th Birthday.
“I never want to retire,” she said Thursday. “I’ll stay here as long as God lets me.”
The near-centenarian has been running her store at 371 Harvard St. just outside of Coolidge Corner in Brookline’s JFK Crossing neighborhood since 1939. What started as a small grocery and school supply store transitioned into a toy and card shop after Weiss and her late husband Irving Kravetz purchased the small shop. Kravetz passed away in 1960 and Weiss’s second husband, Abe Weiss, has also passed away.
But she has kept the store running year after year while the economy or changes in the marketplace forced other toy stores to close.
Weiss said she credits the survival of her business to low overhead and great customers. She lives next door and the store keeps her busy, especially during the school year when kids are attending the neighboring Edward Devotion School.
Her love for the kids is what keeps her going, Weiss said.
“The people around here are wonderful,” she said.
Weiss said she doesn’t sell unsafe items, refuses to sell things like candy cigarettes because she thinks they send the wrong message, and doesn’t sell many expensive toys.
When the kids come in to buy candy, she said she makes them do the math to add up how much they are spending, and she makes the kids read her list of tips she calls “Thoughts for a Happier Life” that includes sage advice, such as “Show appreciation. Try to be a good role model,” and “Don’t try to be perfect. Just do the best you can.”
“I make all the kids read it because I want them to do the right thing,” Weiss said.
This time next year Weiss said she hopes she’s celebrating her 100th birthday and is still working at the store.
“It’s more fun being here than at home,” she said.