Remember those family vacations where you’d stop at a scenic town filled with little shops? Seeing unique things you didn’t have at home which opened up your creativity? Well, step right up – the Baraboo Toy Soldier Shoppe is open for business!
Most people think of toy soldiers as little green army men, or playsets of the Alamo or the Old West which were sold through Sears catalog. But to the owner of this small business, they were toys that made you imagine, taking care in setting up the scene, positioning the soldiers, learning through playing.
“All through civilization, we have recreated life through miniatures and likenesses”, says Brenden McDaniel, owner of the Baraboo Toy Soldier Shoppe. “Miniatures of people, animals and things that represent all of us – our people, our places, our things, all throughout history.” These miniatures could be historical figures, soldiers, civilians, circus, Christmas, farmers and their farms, knights, houses and villages, university marching bands – everyday people. But what makes these miniatures unique is they are sculpted by hand, based on photographs made true to life, hand painted, with a lot of time invested in one little figure, getting details just right. They are made out of paper, sawdust, wood, metal and plastic, in some cases made out of already existing things, like bullets, nails and screws. These figures represent our past, present and future.
Wanting to share his love for these toys, Brenden stepped down from his Professional Organizing business of 15 years, and with the support of his wife, Jody, took a risk to follow this dream. They sold their house and moved from West Allis to downtown picturesque Baraboo WI, home of Circus World Museum, and the Ringling Brothers home. Inspired by and fascinated his whole life by his love of toy soldiers, miniatures, and the circus – the performers, music and showmanship, Brenden tied his two passions together opening a toy soldier shop which features model circus wagons as well.
Opening a toy soldier shop is like starting any small business, one step at time – location, lease for store, FEIN, insurance, payment methods accepted, social media presence, creating a buzz at a trade show, website, display cases, stock, enlisting the help and support of other local business owners and advertising. “Our logo was created by a prominent Baraboo circus archivist, historian and performer, Tim Tegge. It’s a toy soldier with clown face and clown shoes to show our love for our new found community”, Brenden states.
Part of starting a business is becoming a part of and involving the community. The investment is not just monetary but about emotion, being committed. Joining the Circus of the Chefs committee, a fundraising event for the Circus World; filling sand bags for Baraboo in midst of flooding, attending town events like Music on the Square, getting to know the community, to Brenden, it’s the way you do business, “It is all uncertain, you have to have faith and believe.”
Brenden has commissioned with the W. Britain to create two metal figures to be made of a couple of well-loved Barabooians: Dave Saloutos, the ringmaster at Circus World, as well as Scott O’Donnell, the Executive Director of Circus World and also known as Dusty the Clown. “These will be unique figures, only to be found in Baraboo and will appeal to collectors around the world”, says Brenden.
Brenden’s vision for his small business is to engage collectors, historians, big kids at heart, and children to teach and show them some history through toys that are meant to be played with and vignettes. Whether it’s a battle scene, everyday life during the civil war, Egyptians, Aztecs, tanks, planes, ships, he wants to get children involved – make history real through very realistic figures. The goal is to be a destination, a place where there’s always something old and new, where the store’s clientele includes the young and old, residents, and tourists who visit every year and long to see what Brenden has in store for them.