Concord's YoYo Heaven
Concord's YoYo Heaven specializes in yo-yos
Since it first dangled in ancient Greece about 500 BC, the popularity of the yo-yo has had its downs and ups. The Marquis de Lafayette was known to dabble in the arcane art in the drawing rooms of pre-revolutionary France; Duncan Yo-Yos were all the rage during the Great Depression and the Age of Aquarius. And now those cunning, spinning orbs are on the upswing again throughout the country and the Granite State. Pretty cool for a 2,500-plus-year-old, low-tech toy.
The opening of the specialty shop YoYo Heaven in Concord last year is proof of the resurgent trend in New Hampshire. It’s a small nirvana for yo-yo (a phrase that means “come-come” in Filipino) aficionados and those with fond memories of hours spent dangling a Duncan at the end of string. It’s also an education for those who want to get introduced to the sport and a go-to for what the shop owners call “skill toys” — those involving tactile, no-tech objects and activity including yo-yoing, as well as Tech Deck (fingerboards), juggling items, Astrojax and professional-grade paddle balls to name a few.
The shop is owned and operated by the father-and-son team of Andy and Dan McBride. Dan, 24, is the yo-yo performance expert and his father, 50, handles the business end.
Dan can often be found in the shop doing mind-boggling tricks on a high-performance yo-yo, testing the limits of gravity, balance and momentum while Andy mans the cash register.
“About 95 percent of the people who walk through that door buy something,” says Andy. “A lot of people say, ‘I want the one I had as a kid,’ and go right to the Duncan Imperial.”
The duo opened the store last October after selling yo-yos over the Internet for several years. “Opening the shop was a logical step,” says Andy. “We wanted to sell more expensive yo-yos and, when you spend a certain amount of money, you want to see it first, handle it in person.”
Their yo-yos, or “throws” as they’re known by insiders, range in price from a $5 Duncan Imperial to a One Drop for $149.95.
“The more expensive yo-yos have aircraft grade bearings and balances just right,” says Dan.
“We have a wide range of prices so you can start cheap and move up,” said Andy. “And, if anybody wants to try anything, they can. We have a demo model of every yo-yo we have for sale."
The shop’s large flat-screen shows loops of professionals “throwing” as yo-yoing is called by insiders, performing tricks that defy gravity and belief, some using “stringless” or off-string yo-yos, and some with two yo-yos at a time. In the backdrop is New Age music, Enya and the like, to get in the right zone for a toy that really does take concentration.
Andy has been a casual yoyo-er but Dan is the expert who can perform hundreds of tricks, gives lessons and has competed in professional competition. “Yo-yoing is something anybody can do,” he says.
“Throwing” as entertainment is coming to New Hampshire in the form of “Yo-Yo People,” the husband and wife duo of John Higby and Rebecca Loomis Higby, who will take the stage March 3 at the Pontine Theatre in Portsmouth. The couple performs Walk the Dog, Rock the Baby and other well-known yo-yo tricks, some of which involve unicycles, hula hoops and lighting matches with yo-yos. Their 45-minute show will be followed by a workshop.
If the shop and show are enough to reel you in, Manchester is the home of the New Hampshire Yo-Yo Club, which hosts a monthly meeting to learn tricks and “spread the fellowship of the yo-yo” and uses the slogan, “Live Free & Throw.”