Kellogg, Minn. - LARK Toys is one of the few places in the world where you can see retirees acting like young children. The toy manufacturer and seller has much to offer kids of all ages - even those who are just kids at heart.
LARK Toys, located just off Hwy. 61, offers 20,000 square feet of toys, food and entertainment. It was founded in 1983 by ex-teacher Donn Kreofsky and his wife, Sarah, to create and sell handcrafted wooden toys. As the years went by, buildings were added to the original workshop, along with a handcrafted carousel and miniature golf course. In 2008, the Kreofskys sold their company to Kathy and Ron Gray, who still carry on the spirit of the family-owned toy manufacturer.
LARK visitors are greeted in the entryway by a whimsical guestbook, complete with quill pen and wax-dripping candle, as well as a toy locomotive that makes its way along the ceiling of the entrance hall.
A left ushers you along the store's memory lane, a museum display of sorts lined with toys new and old, on the way to the food court, gift shop and LARK's famous carousel.
To the right is the toy store.
Preschool toys, like Duplo building blocks and Thomas the Train cars mingle in the same room as erector sets and LEGOs.
In the first room, marionettes and puppets sit on shelves, with a puppet theater set up for kids to play with.
Any toy not in a box is fair game at LARK - as long as it's treated with care. The store has encouraged playtime since it opened.
In another room, separated from the others, are the store's trademark wooden pull toys and marionettes, handcrafted on site by woodcarver Tim Monson.
The pull toys are ingeniously designed. A wooden duck's wings move up and down as it rolls on the ground. A turtle's head comes in and out of its shell when pulled.
The area also draws those with a fondness for marbles, where any number of the toy spheres can be bought by the handful and by specific sizes and colors.
When visitors have finished playing with the toys, there is still much more of LARK to see.
Return to the entrance, and take the left.
The hallway to the rest of the building showcases the store's collection of antique and collectible toys.
Old board games like Alien Autopsy can be seen, displayed next to action figures and tin cars.
An entire display is devoted to the iconic (think "Toy Story") little green plastic Army men and cowboy and Indian toys.
After the tour, the hallway opens up to the food court, candy store, gift shop and llama viewing deck.
The store's new owners have a passion for llamas. Three of them -all brothers - can be seen in the green space between buildings.
LARK Toys has an eatery with burgers, fries, sandwiches and hand-scooped ice cream, plus plenty of seating - meaning that one could easily spend a full day roaming the store.
The candy store offers old-school candy like oversized lollipops, Jelly Belly beans, as well as joke candy like suckers with fake scorpions inside.
LARK Toys makes fresh fudge on-site using real cream and butter - and offers every guest a free sample.
But none of that is the centerpiece of the area.
That honor belongs to the carousel.
The full-sized and fully functional carousel, which features hand-carved and hand-painted animals, was designed by Donn Kreofsky in 1988. The project took nine years to complete.
The animals are beautifully detailed and painted. There's a white bird with a fresh catch in its beak, with water dripping off to the floor of the carousel.
A pink pig deals with an unwanted troll hitchhiking on its back, and a dragon with a blue-robed wizard sitting at the base of its neck bobs up and down as the carousel spins.
The carousel runs every half-hour each day, and both kids and adults are welcome to ride it.
It's the last and most compelling piece of evidence that LARK toys has something for everyone, whether they're young or simply still young at heart.