Funny Farm To Close Doors

David M. Gliklich

Customers browse through Harvard Square's Funny Farm, which will close on Dec. 24

Caroline A. Crescenzi’s raspy, infectious laugh fills the toy-packed Funny Farm as she waits on customers from behind a counter of wind-up toys.

But Crescenzi, the owner of the quirky store in the basement of 8 Eliot St.—adjacent to Charlie’s Kitchen—will not be laughing any more after the store permanently closes on Dec. 24, after 12 years in the toy business.

The store will be going out of business after falling on bad economic times.

“I would do this forever if I could,” Crescenzi says. “It makes me want to cry.”

In fact, after the news of the closing, one of the store’s workers has become too sad to come to work.

The somber mood is out of place for a store that specializes in gag gifts and wind-up toys, like a furry, dancing “Kung Fu Hamster” and a plastic doll called “happy monk with cellular phone and espresso.” Several of their toys have even been featured in blockbuster movies.

Crescenzi opened the store when she realized through her interest in geriatrics that while there were many toy stores for children, there was also a need for toy stores tailored to adults.

Since then, Funny Farm has become a second home to many Cantabrigians and Harvard students, who flock there for the unusual array of toys—and the friendly atmosphere.

“It’s become unusual for you to be able to walk in a store and have a conversation with someone,” says Bob Cleary, a store employee for seven years. “This is a place where people come in and I can have a conversation with them and I’m representing something I can be proud of.”

While the store is designed to be a playground for adults, Crescenzi welcomes children, as well—under the supervision of adults. Regardless of age, she says, toys bring out the same playful spirit in all.

“There’s a leveling aspect that famous people will act silly and a three-year-old will show a 70-year-old a toy,” Crescenzi says.

The store’s closing at the end of the Christmas season will leave many of its regular customers feeling homeless.

“I come here all the time because there’s no other place of its kind and Caroline’s the best,” says Jim Anderson, who says he has been coming to the shop every month for almost 10 years.

Brad Duarte, another longtime customer, says with the store’s closing he will have to fulfill his toy needs on the Internet—though it will not be the same.

“I’m a big kid at heart,” he says. “There’s nothing like firsthand—you get to play with the toys.”

This is not the first time the store has fallen on hard times, with the collapse of their roof and a flood at its former location. But Crescenzi says those troubles were overcome with the loyalty and financial generosity of a few customers. She jokingly calls these donors the store’s “board members.”