The inside of Lark Toys, the first glimpse as people come in the door.
“Every time they have a new grandchild, ence.” Gray had a daughter who almost Rides are $1 and available every half-
they’ll get them a Lark toy,” Gray said. died in birth, and they decided to move hour.
“It’s just a keepsake, that’s what it is,” from the Twin Cities area to Winona. “From 90-year-olds to newborns, every-
said Monson, 45, whose favorite is the “A near-death experience puts a lot of one rides that carousel,” Gray said.
dragon pull toy. things in perspective,” she said. “We saw Lark has added many additions recently,
Lark Toys and thought, ‘This is it.’” including an 18-hole mini-golf course with
It all started in a garage
two waterfalls, The Fudge Tree homemade
The signature toys made by Lark were Come for the toys,
treat counter (check out “Mary’s Groovy
first created in a garage about 30 years
stay for the extras
Far-Out Tie-Dyed Fudge”), and The
To describe Lark Toys is really to sepa-
Christmas Closet, which displays holiday-
“The owner (Donn Kreofsky) made the
rate it into parts: Each section of toys is a
toys in his garage for his three sons,” Gray
“store,” and there is also a toy museum,
“Lark has a lot of ‘wow’ things, like,
candy shop, novelty store, cafe with ice
‘Look at all the marbles!’” Gray said.
He expanded his hobby to art shows,
cream and sandwiches, a trio of llamas and
Gray is especially proud of three of her
and then into a small toy manufacturer.
even a working carousel.
latest additions — a trio of llamas named
“For a period, all they did was whole-
“Sort of the crowning jewel of it all is the
after famous authors: Irving, Eliot and
sale,” Gray said.
carousel,” Gray said.
Francis. The tame animals occasionally walk
They eventually sold to stores nation-
In 1988, Donn Kreofsky started to design
through the store for the children to pet.
wide, including FAO Schwarz and the
a carousel. Over nine years, Monson
“They’ll reach down and give kisses to
Smithsonian; they even opened a small toy
blocked up the wood; Bill Stark, a local
2-year-olds,” Gray said.
store on the side in Kellogg.
artisan, carved the animals; and Lark artist
“This crazy thing grew out of this little
Mary Eversman hand-stained them.
‘Good toys, good people’
toy factory,” Gray said of today’s store.
“He had the interesting challenge of
From Smurfs to Tinkertoys to Erector
Eventually, Kreofsky and his wife, Sarah,
making it work with these amazing ani-
Sets, Lark has something that will make
stopped distributing nationally and focused
mals,” Gray said of Monson.
everyone say, “I remember that!”
on the toy store.
It opened in 1997 complete with a
The individual “stores” specialize in a
Originally, the “Lark” in Lark Toys stood
rooster, flamingo, ostrich pulling a cart,
broad spectrum of toys, like early child-
for Lost Arts Revival Kreofsky; when the
deer with real antlers, giraffe, seahorse and
hood, games, science and nature, dolls and
Grays bought the business in January 2008,
others. The animals symbolize the area’s
they dropped the acronym and added a
diverse culture and history, from the eagle
“We try not to do very much licensed
wind-up bird logo.
on a white buffalo (Native Americans) to
stuff … not so much the novelties,” Gray
The Grays took over ownership after
the shells on an otter (the button factories
said. “This book store is certainly a
what Kathy calls a “near-death experi-
formerly abundant in the region).
love of my life. I just absolutely love
24 ♦ Southern Minnesota Magazine ♦ Winter 2009
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