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January 30, 2013 - What does it mean when a business closes? In the case of Little Monsters, it means more than merely the loss of another retail opportunity.

It isn't even just the loss of another toy store, a convenience easily supplanted by a quick trip to the mall. No, leaving along with Little Monsters is a rare chance for Orionites to find a little bit of magic.

My first visit left a strong impression. I crossed the threshold, and had to look back to make sure I was still in Lake Orion. A scuffed brick wall from a bygone Orion era ran along the left side, its muted coarseness balancing out the silvery sparkle of be-jeweled chandeliers suspended from air vents. As I wandered through the maze of games and toys, I felt I had unearthed a portal into a time and place with entirely different priorities than the bustling modern world of M-24.

I did all of my holiday shopping there, drawn by the unique and affordable selection. Not only were the gifts like nothing encountered in the big-box stores, their educational value meant they would pay dividends longer than the run-of-the mill present. If you've ever visited the Flint St. funhouse, you'll agree Little Monsters was a place of whimsy and wonder.

But Little Monsters also drew my attention because of the thrill it offered the curious mind. At Little Monsters you could grab and give life to a puppet, shoot off an air rocket with your feet, or watch silly putty change colors in your hands.

At Little Monsters it was common to find children painted with glitter, or to find parents (bigger kids, shall we say) enrolled in a macramé or pottery course. Between the art gallery nestled in the back, the daily contests and prizes, all the crazy costumes, and the cool and creative art classes, it has become evident Little Monsters was an important haven for fostering and recording Orion's creativity.

Sadly, the proprietors announced the store will close next month, and when it goes, Orion has one less place where expression and discovery is championed. I'm confident there are many other people and places in Orion that afford a space for an artistic soul to find herself, but when Little Monsters closes, Orion will have one less sanctuary for fertile minds to rest.

You may not realize it at first, but in these increasingly materialistic, commercialized times, this loss is dire. I hope we recognize what Little Monsters takes with it: not just a business and the funding it brings to the township, but a special spot that gives permission, that grants validity, that encourages and re-creates a mind.

But it doesn't have to end that way. Now that Little Monsters exits, I'll be looking to see more spots in Orion that allow our wild and mystical dimensions to expand. The question is not if, but when and where will the next safe zone be situated for the curious, the artistic, and the unorthodox?

So, what will Orion do without its Little Monsters?

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