Ellen is the new owner of Alakazam Toy Store on the Downtown Mall. She shares what made her interested in buying the toy store and her many interests! Stop by Alakazam on the Downtown Mall and say hi to Ellen!
How many children do you have and what are their age(s)?
I have two kids: Louis, my wonderful seven year old son, and Ila, my fantastic two year old daughter. When we moved here a couple of years ago, I was 8 months pregnant with Ila. That was my first introduction to the community of mothers here in Charlottesville. The women I met helped me get my bearings, find an OB, and then supported and fed us when she was born. To say we felt welcomed is an understatement.
How long have you lived in Charlottesville? What made you decide to live here?
Two years last December! My husband Michael got a job at UVA. We had moved from NYC to Westchester county in New York, and his commute was two hours each way. It wasn’t sustainable, and the lifestyle in Cville has been a welcome change.
What’s your favorite family activity (in Charlottesville)?
I think one of the loveliest experiences we’ve had here is Carters Mountain Orchard. I like to take my daughter during picking season on weekday mornings when it’s quiet, but we’ve also had fun as a family on busy weekends. The Monticello Trail is an easy, beautiful walk with the kiddos. We love IX Art Park and all it has to offer. We like to walk the Downtown Mall: we are regulars at the Discovery Museum, but I also love to take my son to see old movies at the Paramount, and Fridays after Five are super fun. We love to go to UVA basketball games (GO HOOS!)
Where is your favorite place to eat (in Charlottesville)?
My daughter has some protein intolerances which can make it difficult to eat out as a family, but we love Brazos Tacos, Doma (my husband dreams about the Dolsot Bibimbap,) Roots, Iron Paffles and Coffee, and Milan Indian Cuisine. I’m also obsessed with Thai Cuisine and Noodle House and tell everyone I know how delicious the Tom Yum soup is. At the store we split our time between Grit and Petit Marie Bette for coffee and treats.
What’s one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
I’ve had many lives: I studied acting in college and moved to New York to pursue it, but moved away from that and managed a bookstore, then became a kitchen manager for a cafe in Brooklyn, studied pre-med at Hunter College, and then fell into the fashion world where I worked for several years. I guess I have a lot of interests? I actually just acted in my first play in 18 years (holla, Live Arts!) so maybe all those previous me’s are finally coming together.
Please share your business:
I just bought the toy store Alakazam on the Downtown Mall!
What interested you in buying Alakazam Toy Store?
I think ultimately what attracted me to the idea of owning a toy store is that it’s a place where people can find joy in a complicated world. I’ve worked in retail a long time, and there are lots of things I like about it: I like the hustle, the fact that you wear many hats, and I truly like to help people. The store was already an institution, and now I can help it grow into its next phase, and while I do that I can enjoy owning a place where people can come and be silly. As my husband says, if we’re not having fun we’re doing it wrong.
What is one piece of advice you wish someone told you about being a mother?
That your body doesn’t always do what it’s supposed to and that not everything is instinctual. Sometimes the best thing you can do for you and your family is reach out and ask for help.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Come and say hi! I still feel new here and love meeting people in the community. Always looking to expand my group of mom friends.