Progressive Labor Party Organizes Solidarity March With Harvard Yard Encampment


Encampment Protesters Briefly Raise 3 Palestinian Flags Over Harvard Yard


Mayor Wu Cancels Harvard Event After Affinity Groups Withdraw Over Emerson Encampment Police Response


Harvard Yard To Remain Indefinitely Closed Amid Encampment


HUPD Chief Says Harvard Yard Encampment is Peaceful, Defends Students’ Right to Protest

New Store Is Also Playground

Learningsmith Opens In Square, Sells Educational Toys

By Natasha H. Leland, Crimson Staff Writer

Eight screens displaying computer animation set the futuristic decor. Pink dancing hippos grace the back wall, where four other screens show the movie classic Fantasia.

A look into the 21st century? No, just Learningsmith, the latest addition to Harvard Square's collection of high gloss retail outlets.

The Brattle Street store, which opened last Thursday, replaces Cambridge Booksmith, which previously occupied the location for more than 20 years.

Customers wax enthusiastic about the store, started by Marshall J. Smith in partnership with WGBH-TV and designed to promote educational toys.

"It's totally rad," said one fourteen-year old customer who was experimenting with some tongue drums.

"It's very unique. No one else has done anything like it," said Jack R. Barney, the store's director of operations. "Other stores do not have so many types of merchandise brought together."

The store's selections appeal to a wide range of ages. "We see a lot of parents buying for their kids and themselves, but grandparents and kids come in here too," said assistant manager John C. Jones.

The various toys, games, books and computer software are divided into "discovery centers" labeled "Brain Aerobics," "Table of Knowledge" and "Playing Things."

In the section marked "Music From Around the World," customers can find a musical spoon, a jaw harp or even a kazoo.

The shop caters to a high-brow audience, stocking "The World's Most Difficult Jigsaw Puzzle," the Official Politically Correct Dictionary and Handbook and numerous videos on art or astronomy on its shelves.

From Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein to SupraTetris, the store traces childhood toy phases, as well as featuring crafts toys such as jewelry making kits.

"The idea is that everyone is thirsting for education," Smith said. "This lightens up learning. It's opening up areas of learning to help people."

But the educational aspect of the store shows good business sense as well as a commitment to public service. "knowledge is a major product for today and from here on," Smith said.

In addition to its intellectual side, Learningsmith provides a place to check out the newest computer games.

At the 10 Apple Macintoshes and IBM PC terminals on the second floor, teenagers sit next to suit-clad business executives, experimenting with the latest ways to shoot mutants.

"I'm not sure what the game is, but I think I'm trying to take over the world," said one conservatively-dressed man who was attracted by the novelty.

Though Learningsmith's educational focus contrasts vividly with that of the fast-paced yuppie stores of the '80s, its prices are not so different.

An opera trivia game sells for $27.90, while a brain twister known as Adam cube goes for $12.95.

Just visiting Learningsmith and checking out its wares may be entertainment enough for some, however.

"The whole store is an event," Smith said.

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.