Jackson County

At 90, John and Maryalice Miner still at Ocean Springs toy store's helm

They met Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt at the White House when they were teenagers. He became a naval architect on the team that developed unmanned vertical-launch missiles. She developed her own style of swim lessons and early-childhood development classes.

But more than anything, John and Maryalice Miner are known for the toy store they have had near the entrance to downtown Ocean Springs for 28 years.

They are both turning 90, and the city is throwing them a birthday party.

The couple didn't open the toy store until they were 62.

The stories are just part of

what they share with their customers.

He, an Eagle Scout, did Christmas-tree lighting duty for the Roosevelts. He was a Duncan yo-yo champion in junior high. She met the Roosevelts with her parents at a ceremony, and being young, was prepared to snicker because the first lady was homely, but remembers being totally captivated by Eleanor when she looked in her eyes.

There is no end to the life stories. Today will be another one.

They know about the party.

"I'm half excited and half embarrassed," she said. But she has her dress picked out, and it's dynamite blue.

They plan on having fun. After all, they know parties -- they have supplied presents for Coast customers for nearly three decades. Generations have grown up with Miner's Doll & Toy Shop toys.

"We see (the toy recipients) 28 years later and they remember where the train table is," said Merileigh Furr, the Miner's daughter who helps with the shop.

John points out it's not unusual to see college boys back there pushing a train around.

The Miners are both sharp and involved in running the business. They haven't turned it over, Furr said. He still writes the checks and she still orders merchandise. Her favorite is a pricey lion puppet she can cuddle and move, like a real cat.

Toys are a way to interact with people, Maryalice said, to develop relationships. They are key to a child's learning process. And Miner's has some of the best.

The Miners are also an inspiration.

Paige Riley, who runs Hillyer House across the street, said Maryalice baked her a birthday cake last year, which impressed her. Riley watches her. She said Maryalice works six days a week, and attends morning Chamber gatherings and events at night.

"Some mornings I come in to open, wondering how I'm going to make it, and I look across and see her at the front of her shop sweeping, in her blue linen suit with her lipstick on," Riley said. "It gets me going."

Riley said the town is excited. People are sending in mementos and stories connected with the Miners. They're planning a scrapbook.

The party is two hours in the afternoon today, but Riley said she's getting such a good response, "we're planning an after party."