Monday, September 26, 2022

The Buzz General Store from Honey Bee Acres

Happy fall, everyone!  It's so funny, because just as the season officially changed, New Jersey went from 90° and oppressively humid to 72° and breezy, with nighttime temperatures that are downright cold.  It's a nice change, but I have whiplash.  The colder temperatures reminded me that we're coming up on the one-year anniversary of this blog's re-awakening!  That's hard for me to believe.  I'll have to think of a fun Sunday Surprise review to honor the date.

In the meantime, you might be surprised to see something that's not a 14-inch doll on the cover today!  Sorry if that's a disappointment to anyone, but I decided to take another little break from the 14-inch comparison series so that I could explore different things.  Way back in January, when I reviewed the Honey Bee Acres figures and compared them to Li'l Woodzeez and Calico Critters, I mentioned that some day I wanted to come back and take a look at the accessories and playsets that are available in that line, which is exactly what I'm going to do today.

Long-time readers of the blog might remember how much I like the Li'l Woodzeez shop-themed playsets, like the Tickle Your Tastebuds Bakery and Honeysuckle Hollow General Store.  Because of my affection for those two toys, I really wanted to look at the equivalent Honey Bee Acres set, which is called The Buzz General Store.  I'll certainly have the Woodzeez sets that I've already reviewed in my head as I look at this toy, but I'll also make some more direct comparisons to newer Li'l Woodzeez sets.  All of that means that this is going to be a long one (shocker), so I'd better get started!

The Buzz General Store from Honey Bee Acres, $19.94.

There aren't very many of this type of playset in the Honey Bee Acres lineup at the moment, just a $50 farmhouse:

Buzzy Farmhouse, $49.97.
A smaller cottage:

Sunflower Cottage, $24.97
A cool retro van:

Tall Around Town Van, $9.94
And of course The Buzz General Store that I'm reviewing.

I remember that the General Store was difficult to find during the holiday season last year (and there were a lot of marked-up offerings on eBay), but it appears to be reliably in stock at Walmart lately.

The set comes in an attractive open-faced cardboard box with a checkered ribbon handle:

The box excitedly advertises that the set comes with 56 pieces, but there are far fewer items visible in the display--I count about twenty things in addition to the shop itself.  

It's a small point, but I feel like the accessories should have been packaged so that they're all visible--or so that they're all hidden.  Preferably all hidden.  Putting only some of these items on display makes it look like the set doesn't come with much.  And it uses a lot of unnecessary plastic.

The box is nicely-decorated, with a yellow and black gingham theme, and there are arched windows cut out of each end:

The back of the box has a photograph of the set against a grassy background, and there are small advertisements for the 56 pieces! and the Sunflower Country Cottage that I showed you earlier:

There's also a short blurb about the store and Aunt Millie, the bear who runs it.  Apparently Aunt Millie's specialty is honey:

Is she giving the honey away or forcing shoppers to buy it??
The set is attached to a cardboard backdrop that slides out of the main box.  Most of the visible accessories are contained within a molded plastic shell that's attached to the backdrop, but something from my set had come out of the plastic and was loose in the back of the box:

I freed the set by snipping two cable ties that were secured underneath the backdrop:

Hiding inside of the store, there was a blue cardboard box with the remaining pieces:

It would have been great if all of the pieces were packaged like that!
Extracting the small items from underneath the plastic shell was the hardest part of the de-boxing process, but it didn't take very long.  

Here's everything that was in that display:

There are two produce stands filled with fruits and veggies, three vase-like containers, six flowers, and Aunt Millie.

The store itself has a very nice design, with a black and white striped awning, red trim, molded white bricks along the walls, and a fancy half-circle window over the door:

The door is made out of thin blue plastic, which feels a bit flimsy, but it opens in two pieces, which is a fun feature!

A Dutch door!
One side of the store has a six-paned blue window and an empty poster display frame:

The other side has a sign that says "The Buzz," and a half wall with a counter and a hanging scale:

I like the little sidewalk that wraps around this side of the building.  It opens up a lot more area for play.

It looks like the scale is designed to be accessed from either inside or outside the store.  Adjacent to the scale on the inside, there's a row of three small hooks:

On the opposite side of the interior, there are three pale yellow plastic shelves:

These walls look higher than the Li'l Woodzeez playset walls to me, but they're not.

The floor of the shop has a black and white checkered pattern that looks nice and matches the Honey Bee Acres color scheme:

The surface is made out of cardboard, though, and might not wear well over time.

Underneath the cardboard, the grey plastic floor has no design or molded pattern whatsoever: 

On the bottom of the shop, you can see that everything is held together with screws, so presumably it could all be disassembled for long-term storage:

One of the nice perks with this set is that it comes with a figure.  Many of the Li'l Woodzeez and Calico Critters sets do not come with any animals (although some do).

I've already looked in-depth at several Honey Bee Acres figures, but I'll do a quick overview of Aunt Millie anyway.  She comes wearing overalls, an apron, and a felt hat:

The hat flips up awkwardly in the back, exposing the seam:

And that apron closure is a mess.
The ear holes in this hat make it look a bit like hat-shaped underwear:

Or a hat emoji.
Or a cute pair of flare-waisted shorts for Li'l Woodzeez Scoot!

Underneath the hat, Aunt Millie has rounded teddy bear ears.  She also has eyelashes, so we know she's a girl:

Aunt Millie's balance is not very good, so a lot of my pictures ended up like this:

Millie has a patch of scuffed flocking on her chin--a common finding with these critters:

The apron straps attach with little velcro patches, so they're easy to unfasten, but the velcro looks messy:

The body of the apron is stitched very simply, with a basic hem at the bottom and a single row of stitches around the outside:

The overalls are one piece, but they include some contrasting fabrics and tiny ribbon straps:

And they close in back with velcro:

The overalls look cute, but they're hard get on and off, and the edges of the shirt are unfinished.

Millie has the same body that we saw with the Barkster family:

Here she is next to Poppy Barkster for comparison:

They almost look like twins!

Millie has a few small holes down her back, and what looks like a puffy rabbit tail:

Perhaps she's a bearbit?
Teddy bear tails usually look more like actual bear tails:

One of the issues I have with the Honey Bee Acres animals is that they all look really similar.  It doesn't feel like there was a lot of effort invested in making the different animals look distinct.

Unlike, say, the new Calico Critters sloths!

Another issue I have with the Honey Bee Acres figures is all of the flocking scuffs:

And there's yet another one on Millie's foot:

Unlike some of the animals in my previous reviews, though, Millie can bend all of her limbs:

But playsets like these are won or lost because of their accessories, I think, so let's get right to the heart of the matter.

I'll start with the collection of accessories that was on display at the front of the store:

The two food stands look nice and have a colorful mix of fruits and veggies:

The food comes out of the compartments on the stand, but the individual items do not detach from one another:

The cabbage comes in groups of two.  It has nice molded detail on both sides:

The green peppers come in groups of six.  These look a little small, but they're in proportion to the cabbage:

This group of six is supposed to be tomatoes, judging by the molded shape, but there isn't much detail:

The last kind of produce is a six pack of lemons.  The lemons are the same size as the peppers and the tomatoes, which makes them pretty big!

The flowers are all individual, and they include three hydrangeas (?) and three sunflowers:

The hydrangeas all have paint defects, like the grey patch on this flower:

And the pink-stained leaf (and missing paint) on this flower:

The sunflowers can fit into any of the included containers:

But the hydrangeas are top heavy, so they make the smaller buckets fall over:

The hydrangeas look good arranged together in one bucket, but the sunflowers all overlap with one another:

The item that was loose in the back of the box was this topiary bush...which was clearly missing something on the bottom:

The rest of the accessories came stored inside of the cardboard box:

These include a shelf, a counter, two bags of smaller items...

And the missing pot for the topiary bush!

That looks better.
The shelf and the counter are both made out of pale blue plastic, and the counter has a white speckled top that is reminiscent of granite or Corian:

The shelving unit comes apart, although I'm not sure it's supposed to.  You could hide secret little items in there if you wanted:

The first plastic bag that I opened had a whole variety of things:

There's a welcome sign, a few pieces of food, a basket, some clear plastic containers, and a dust pan:

The sign is cute, and has a hinge at the top to make it look like it folds open and closed (it does not):

There are little molded chains on either side, but these don't bend enough to allow the sign to fold down flat:

The opposite side of the sign has a simple picture of an apple...which is misleading because the set doesn't come with any apples:

False advertising.
Also, the shine mark on that apple looks like an exclamation point to me, and I can't un-see it.

The food items in this bag were two heads of romaine lettuce, two bunches of bananas, and two loaves of bread:

The lettuce, bananas, and bread are really small in comparison to some of the food we saw earlier.  Here they are alongside the tomatoes and the cabbage:

There's definitely more than one scale at work here.  And those bananas are laughably small.  Maybe they're Lady Finger or "baby" bananas?

In any case, here are the basket and the dust pan:

The basket can hold quite a few items--especially the smaller-scaled ones!

And I like that the basket handles can move independently.

There are quite a few food containers in this set, too.  Like these small, empty jars:

Pickled air!
There are also three slanted candy jars, two of which have a couple of small green beads rattling around at the bottom.  The beads look pretty lame, but at least somebody made the effort to put something inside:

Slow clap.
The candy jars can open, which is awesome, and so the beads can be removed:

Choking hazard alert.
Or, better yet, more beads can be added:

Now we're talking!
These jars definitely look better when they have extra beads inside of them, but they still don't look quite as good as they do on the box photo:

In that (presumably prototype) set, not only are all of the candy jars filled to the brim with different, colorful items, but the lids on the jars have a realistic metallic shine.  In addition, the smaller jars on the bottom shelf are brightly colored and don't look empty.

In fact, many of the accessories look better on the box than they do in real life.

Now let's take a look a what was inside the second plastic accessory bag:

There's a cash register, some barrels, a few food items, three more jars, a broom, and a sign:

The cash register is pretty rough.  It's made out of dark grey plastic and has a lighter grey top.  The construction is crooked and there are scuffs and strings of extra plastic here and there:

The bottom is hollow:

And the back is very plain--with more scuffs and marks:

The two barrels (and one sack) are nicer than the cash register.  These items feel heavy and are made out of hard vinyl:

This barrel looks like it has flour or sugar inside, and there's a partially visible scoop at the top:

The sack also looks like it contains flour or sugar, and also has a scoop, but this one has a bit of a green tinge to it:

Radioactive flour?
The last barrel has something pink inside, and it's hard for me to tell what it's supposed to be.  Wrapped candies, perhaps?

The food items in this group of accessories are cartons with oranges and tomatoes, plus three bunches of carrots:

The tomatoes in the carton are more detailed than the other tomatoes we saw, but at least they're all the same size:

The carrots are enormous, and have some molded and painted detail:

They make the bananas look even more ridiculous!

The bananas look like peach slices here.
There's a cute little broom that goes nicely with the dust pan from the first bag:

Minus the missing paint.
And Aunt Millie can hold both in her hands:

The three jars are made out of translucent red plastic, but they do not open and they do not have anything inside:

But at least the plastic has some color.
The final accessory is this cardboard sign that advertises the Honey Festival:

And the opposite side advertises the State Fair:

The sign slides into the poster frame on the left side of the shop:

This is a really cute detail.  Kids could even design their own signs for display:

So that's everything that comes with the set.  But one glaring omission is honey.  There's no honey!  Isn't that supposed to be Aunt Millie's specialty?

Are these rickety jars supposed to be honey, perhaps?

Extra light honey.
That makes some sense, except for the fact that the same jars were made to look like jam in the promotional set:

Maybe all of the honey is sold out?  That's pretty disappointing, Aunt Millie.  We were promised honey.

With all of the accessories unwrapped, I took my best guess as to how the store should be set up:

The shelves on the left are great for housing all of the jars and canisters, except those small "honey" jars are crooked and tip over all of the time:

I used the opposite side of the store to set up Millie's counter.  I hung up the broom and the dust pan, and I placed the flour and sugar next to the scale:

Millie looks cute tucked behind her counter, but there's no way for her to get out!  Also, the empty shelves underneath the counter don't look very inviting:

Some magazines (or toilet paper?) would have looked nice in that space.
I'm not even sure anything is meant to go on those shelves--or what would fit.  The box art shows them empty as well.  It's not a good look.

I set the shelving unit at the back of the store, but I couldn't find enough things to fill that, either

I brought in the shelves that were on the sidewalk so that the store looked better-stocked:

There are still some empty shelves, but I think this looks pretty good!

The Barkster family stopped by to check everything out:

Poppy gathered some vegetables and had a chat with Millie:

Gus inspected the hilariously small bananas, hoping to find some fruit flies for his bug collection:

Cooper, ever the romantic, sniffed the hydrangeas and dreamed about conjugating verbs:

And Theo was hoping to bury something inside the flour barrel, but realized that the flour doesn't move:

This set-up worked pretty well, but I wanted to see how the store was meant to be arranged, so I looked closely at the box again:

This is pretty different!  The counter is supposed to be right near the door, alongside the shelving unit.  I also didn't have a lot of the food in the right place.  And all of the barrels are meant to be outside!

I tried again:

The barrels look good outside:

But what if it rains?
The left side of the store looks a little bare, though, with only a few empty jars on each shelf and that big tub of carrots on the floor:

And the front counter still has all of its shelves bare.

The Barksters returned to try things out again:

The produce stands no longer fit inside the store, so I stuck those outside.

Gus saw a cool bug on one of the hydrangeas:

But his hands are too little to hold the flower.  Meanwhile, Poppy was irritated because she couldn't reach the scale!

Cooper was tasked with doing the veggie shopping this time, but he had difficulty holding the basket:

I'm not sure if you can see this or not, but everywhere the basket handle was held, the plastic has a white stress mark:

That's because the grip of Cooper's hand is too strong small to comfortably fit the basket handle.

Cooper finally got a grip and gathered some strangely-sized veggies...while Theo wondered what was supposed to be on those empty shelves:

The Calico Critters Lab family was also excited to check out the new store in town:

They fit inside the shop really well, but of course the Calico Critters don't have gripping hands, so poor Lucy couldn't even pick up the basket!

Buddy made a bee-line for the flowers (to hide the dead squirrel smell, perhaps?), but he can't hold those, either:

Sadie was curious to see if the small green candies matched her dress, but she couldn't even get close to reaching them:

I thought perhaps she shop would work better for the Li'l Woodzeez Wagadoodle family, since they have gripping hands:

But poor Chester can't even fit through the door:

Too many treats, buddy.
And the family can hold some of the items, but their grip is too loose in many cases.  So Scoot has to support the hydrangea against his chest:

And Wanda has to balance the basket carefully in her hand:

There's one last family that wanted to check out The Buzz, and that's the new Honey Bee Acres unicorn family!

Honey Bee Acres unicorn family, $9.97.
This is the Daydreamers family with dad Finn, mom Bella, and kids Willa (older) and Twinkle (younger).  I couldn't resist squeezing these cuties into the review!

Aunt Millie was happy to welcome this lively family into her store!

Unlike many of the Honey Bee Acres families, the Daydreamers don't have gripping hands (only hooves!), so they struggled a bit with the shopping.

Bella was admiring the flowers:

And she was able to prop the sunflowers up against her chest to get a good sniff, but she couldn't pick up the basket when it had flowers in it.

Willa was excited about the huge carrots, and she figured out that she didn't need to hold them with her hooves; she could sit on the floor and balance them in her lap!

Meanwhile, Finn was at loose ends, so he just danced around in his snazzy outfit.  Gotta love those shiny blue pants!

You can tell by the way I use my walk...
Bella figured out a new way to loop the basket over her arm:

I'm a unicorn, man, no time to talk.
So she could finally get the shopping done:

Oh--and the whole Daydreamers family wanted to show you that they have colorful yarn tails!

Ah, ah, ah, ah, stayin' alive.
To summarize: the Barkster family is the most compatible with this set, because they're the right size and are able to fit some of the items into their gripping hands.  The Daydreamers and Calico Critters do okay, too, although they can't pick anything up.  The Li'l Woodzeez are fine once they get inside the store, although they can't fit through the door and they make the indoor space pretty crowded.  Their gripping hands can hold some of the items, but are too big for others.

For what it's worth, I don't have any L.O.L. Surprise dolls in the house at the moment, but I've heard that they work with Honey Bee Acres and Li'l Woodzeez sets, too.

I'd love to be able to directly compare The Buzz to the Honeysuckle Hollow General Store, but I don't own it anymore and it's sold out at Target (I think maybe Battat is upgrading to a set that includes two animals...and costs more?).

Instead, I stole a few photos from my earlier review so that we could do a cursory comparison.  Here's the full store:

Honeysuckle Hollow General Store by Battat.
Compared to a similar shot of The Buzz:

The Buzz General Store by Sunny Days Entertainment.
Both of those photos are missing some accessories, but it's fair to say that the Woodzeez set has more pieces (the advertising says 90 pieces compared to The Buzz's 56).  The Woodzeez shop looks well-stocked and full of tempting treats, while the Honey Bee Acres shop can look a little sparse.  But the Honey Bee Acres set includes an animal figure.

As for the shop structures, the Woodzeez shop is made out of heavier plastic and feels more sturdy, but the Honey Bee Acres shop is more colorful, has a split door, detailed windows, and a more interesting overall shape.  It's also more bright and welcoming than the Woodzeez shop, but a lot of that comes from the cardboard floor.  I prefer the molded detail and durability of the Woodzeez floor.

In addition to having more accessories, the Woodzeez set has higher-quality pieces.  Look at the colorful candy jars and those adorable fabric shopping bags!

I find that scene much more enticing that the empty jars and canisters of the Honey Bee Acres set:

Both sets are easily accessible, with their open-faced structures, and I had a lot of fun with both of them, but for my money (they cost the same), I'd rather have the Li'l Woodzeez Honeysuckle Hollow General Store.  In a perfect word, I'd want some combination of the two, with the Honey Bee Acres building and all of the Li'l Woodzeez accessories.

I should stop this review here, but when do I ever stop when I should?  I really wanted to compare The Buzz side-by-side to a Li'l Woodzeez set, and I was also curious to see what some of the newer Li'l Woodzeez toys are like.

So I bought the closest thing to a general store that I could find in the current Li'l Woodzeez lineup, which is this Hoppin' Farmers Market:

Li'l Woodzeez Hoppin' Farmers Market, $19.99.
This has a different layout than most playsets.  Rather than having a cutaway wall in the very front of the building, it's fairly closed-off on the front and open on either side:

All of the accessories come sealed inside plastic shells--one at the back of the market, one in the middle of the floor, and another on the front wall:

That's a lot of plastic.
The central plastic shell was attached to the cardboard that covers the base of the set, and the other two shells were secured with a lot of tape and two cable ties:

It took a little while to detach all of the accessories.  The advertising says there are 68 pieces here--so 12 more than The Buzz.

I'll take their word for it.
With all of the plastic and cardboard gone, this is what the market itself looks like:

The appearance of the store front is great, and the open sides are perfect for a farmers market scene, but this design makes it hard to access the interior space.

There are two hanging flower baskets on the front wall, and these are permanently attached:

There are also molded flowers in the two front window boxes, and these aren't removable, either:

Nor are they well-painted.
The back of the market has three stand areas with colorful awnings and some shelves:

And, just like The Buzz, everything is attached with metal screws to the plastic base:

I wrestled all 68 accessories out of their plastic shells, which took quite a bit longer than it did to de-box The Buzz items. It was a pain.

Here are the fruits of my labor:

Right away you can see that these accessories have a lot more color than the Honey Bee Acres accessories!
I tend to assume that Battat will have easy-to-manage packaging with minimal plastic, so it was disappointing to see that this set has more plastic and waste than The Buzz.  I wish all of these toys came in simple cardboard boxes like the Calico Critters.

Now I'll run you through all of the accessories as efficiently as I can.

First, there's this adorable planting cart, complete with two potted flowers and three garden tools:

There's a larger potted sunflower plant, too:

It has different molded details on the front and the back:

My favorite accessory is this shopping cart.  It came with a few pieces of food inside:

The cool thing about this cart is that it can be pushed on working wheels, or the basket can detach and be carried separately:

Inside the basket, I found a bunch of bananas and a pumpkin:

Those are some big bananas.
These bananas seem much more reasonably-sized than the Honey Bee Acres version, although who's to say what's in scale with a Woodzeez's proportions?

Li'l Woodzeez bananas (left) and Honey Bee Acres banana (right).
Four of the accessories (two buckets, a scale, and a watering can) are made out of similar grey plastic:

And there's a group of light yellow containers, too.  The basket is a slightly different color than the three matching barrels:

Some of the food items were packaged inside crates:

One crate had a watermelon, and the other had a realistic head of cauliflower and some absurdly large grapes:

There are also two ice trays with seafood:

One tray held two bundles of shrimp while the other had two different types of highly-detailed fish:

A bluefish and a yellowfin tuna, I assume.
(My oceanographer husband says the shrimp are too big and the fish are a cod and a sea bass, but he's not a toy expert.) 

The molded ice at the bottom of the trays is not removable, but it looks really cool:

No pun intended.
And there are four extra fish included, too:

There's a free-standing sign that says "fresh apples" on one side:

And "baked daily" on the other side:

Fresh-baked footballs!
And, sure enough, the set actually comes with apples (and pears, corn, peppers, an orange, a tomato, and a carrot):

And a variety of bread:

There are also three cartons of food:

These are blueberries, raspberries and peas (I think).

There's a big wheel of cheese (the same one that comes with the Honeysuckle Hollow set):

And a variety of canned goods:

Including honey!
From the dairy department, there are some eggs:

And a messy bottle of what looks like milk:

It's interesting to compare equivalent items of food from the two brands.  In general, the Woodzeez food is brighter and larger, with better detail.  Here are the carrots as an example:

Honey Bee Acres carrots (left), and Li'l Woodzeez carrot (right).
And the green peppers:

Honey Bee Acres peppers (left), and Li'l Woodzeez pepper (right).
And here's a tomato comparison:

Li'l Woodzeez tomato (left) and Honey Bee Acres tomatoes (right).
Another difference that I notice between these food accessories is that the Woodzeez items tend to come individually, while the Honey Bee Acres food is often clumped into groups.  The grouped food isn't very realistic for shopping play, since people usually select produce items one at a time.  It's probably harder to lose the grouped items, though.

The last accessory is this little welcome sign:

Although I'm not exactly sure where to hang it.

I arranged all of the accessories inside of the market, following the hints in the structure.

For instance, each awning has a little picture on it that indicates what should be displayed at that stall.  This one is clearly for the fruits and vegetables:

So I crammed all of the different fruits and veggies on those two shelves...with the overflow in a crate on the floor:

The next section appears to be for dairy and canned goods:

And since those items didn't take up enough space, I added in the bread, too:

The last section is clearly for fish:

And this area was really hard to fill:

The shelves on the opposite side of the market are small and hard to access, but they could be used for the bread:

Or to hold the scale:

Or for anything you want.  Maybe it's best not to follow the guidelines for set-up with this market, since doing so causes such a discrepancy in the number of products on each shelf. 

When I first saw this set, I thought that perhaps the stalls would come apart so that they could be rearranged in various ways.  It's a little disappointing to me that they're stuck in place, especially because the design of the structure makes them hard to access.

I also think it would have been fun if the back sides of the stalls were designed as a place for each vendor to stand and peddle their goods.  As it is, the back is undecorated and not meant to be seen:

Once I had all of the stalls set up the way I wanted them, it was time for the Wagadoodles to come shop at the market!

Scoot is a good helper, and was excited to be in charge of choosing the fresh-baked bread!

He tried to negotiate for two loaves, but Wanda said one was enough.

Mmm!  That smells good!

The cart takes up a lot of space in the small market, so Wanda detached the basket to see if she could carry it on its own.  While she can't keep the basket upright while holding the top of the handle, like you or I might do....

She can get a nice steady grip on the side of the handle:

After the serious shopping was done, Wanda told Scoot and Spark that they could each have a special treat.

Spark wanted one of the chocolate chip muffins:

They were just out of her reach, though!

And what did Scoot choose?

Don't eat it like that, Scoot!
The Hoppin' Farmers Market is bright and appealing, and the Woodzeez interact with it really well.  I like the accessories that come with this set much more than I like the ones in the Honey Bee Acres set, too. They feel more substantial and detailed, and they're all relatively in scale with one another.  In a perfect world, yet again, I'd love to have the Honey Bee Acres store building with the Li'l Woodzeez accessories, but if I had to choose between The Buzz General Store and the Hoppin' Farmers Market exactly as they are?  I think I'd choose The Buzz.  It's much easier to play with, and I could always buy extra, higher-quality accessories to fill those shelves.

That choice doesn't feel fair, though, since I don't think the Farmers Market is the best playset in the current Li'l Woodzeez lineup.  Not only is the layout strange, but it doesn't have as many pieces or as much charm as the Honeysuckle Hollow General Store.

So what is the best playset in the current Li'l Woodzeez lineup, then?  I know I've probably used up all of your patience at this point, but I have to show you what I think is a strong contender for that distinction.  This is my absolute favorite of any of the toys I've talked about today, and the one that I intend to keep for myself.  It's called the Li'l Nibbles Drive Thru Diner:

Li'l Nibbles Drive Thru Diner, $22.99.
I didn't buy the diner specifically for this review, since it doesn't offer a good thematic comparison to the Honey Bee Acres store, but the moment I laid eyes on it, I couldn't resist.  It's SO cute.

It has a nice, open-face design with a table and benches on one side, and a little kitchen on the other side:

Look at all of the mini food arranged on the table!

This set doesn't include a figure--just a cardboard cutout of Boris Cottonball:

I unwrapped all of the accessories and got the little kitchen set up:

Not only does the cupboard open, but the counter has a hinged, raisable section at the end!  And of course there's a drive-through window on one side.

I also set the ketchup and mustard on the table and put out a menu:

The menu actually has words inside!

And all of the things on the menu are available at the diner, as you can see from the accessories:

The pieces can be assembled to make some pretty tasty-looking dishes:

This set has fewer accessories than any of the other ones I've shown you, but all of the accessories are great.

This time around, I asked two of my Littlest Pet Shop Blythe girls to test out the diner, because I think they compliment these sets really well:

I'm not sure the customer is happy with her plain-looking burger, though...

I ordered tomatoes and lettuce on this!
This set really inspired me, and so I wanted to take it to the next level.  I decided to invest a bit more money and buy some realistic-looking mini food from Etsy to stock the kitchen. 

I found this incredible platter from a shop that has since closed:

Polymer clay burger, nuggets, and fries: $16.00.
And a simpler burger from the same shop:

Cheeseburger with tomato and lettuce, $8.50.
Or maybe you prefer a loaded hot dog and a lemonade?

Hot dog with lemonade, $16.00.
The handmade food on Etsy can get expensive (almost as expensive as any of these playsets!), but there are also affordable, mass-produced items that look pretty great, too, like this cheeseburger platter from ThaiHonest (for sale at places like Amazon, Walmart, and Etsy):

ThaiHonest burger meal, ~$3.50.
Now the diner is really ready for business!

The chef has prepared a mouth-watering variety of options...

And the customer is thrilled!

Care to join me?
Bottom line?  There were a few tangents with this review, I know, but the Li'l Woodzeez diner is a gem and I wanted to show it to you.  If I'd done a full-blown review of that set,  I'd have had very little to say that wasn't positive; it's a great example of what is possible with these $20 toys.  I can chat more about the diner on Patreon if you want, but for now I need to focus on the product at hand, which is the Honey Bee Acres store.

The Honey Bee Acres animal figures were a disappointment to me, especially when compared to the Calico Critters and Li'l Woodzeez, but I found more to like with The Buzz General Store.  The structure itself is bright and welcoming with some some great little details.  I really like the design of the windows and the cute half door.  I also like that the store can be played with from the front or the back, and because of the cutaway wall, the right side is also open and allows more freedom for play.  Some of the plastic parts (like the door) feel flimsy, and I wish that the tiled floor wasn't made out of cardboard, but otherwise it's a nice shop that could inspire some really fun games.  Just don't expect any of the Li'l Woodzeez to fit in through the front door.

There are some nice accessories with this set, too, but the quality is not consistent.  I'll remind you of a few specific examples: Aunt Millie is a good addition, but she has many of the same issues that I mentioned in my earlier reviews, namely that her flocking has several defects and her clothing is sloppy.  There are a lot of food items included, but many of the pieces are strangely scaled with one another which detracts from their realism.  Kids might not mind this very much, but I also wish that there had been more individual fruits and vegetables, rather than the attached clumps.  The jars and canisters look great in the promotional photos, but are much less impressive in reality.  I love the fact that the candy jars have lids that actually open, but they were mostly empty (with the exception of six small green beads).  And not only do the smallest jars look empty, but they're crooked and hard to balance.  The flowers are pretty and fun to arrange, but the hydrangeas are top heavy and have some paint defects.  I like the shelving units and counter, especially because they can be rearranged in many different ways, but some of the shelves are small and hard to fill, which leaves a lot of depressing empty space.  Kind-of like pandemic shopping.

If The Buzz General Store was the only budget playset with a grocery store theme, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it.  But because there are so many Li'l Woodzeez sets for the same price, I think it's worth looking at all of the options more critically.  As a general rule, I think the Li'l Woodzeez sets give you more for your money.  They feel sturdy and durable, and they tend to come with more (and higher-quality) accessories.  That said, I wouldn't pick the Hoppin' Farmers Market over The Buzz General Store, simply because I found the unusual layout hard to navigate.  Playsets with an open front, diorama-like structure are much easier to use--and also more fun to look at.  I would, however, choose the Honeysuckle Hollow General Store, the Tickle Your Tastebuds Bakery, and certainly the Li'l Nibbles Drive Thru Diner over The Buzz.  Those sets are all excellent, and it still amazes me that they are offered at such low prices.

What's gone unsaid thus far is how I feel about the new Honey Bee Acres Daydreamers unicorn family, but I'm sure you've guessed that I love them.  My horned quartet is gloriously free of flocking defects, and all of their limbs move smoothly.  Their clothes are simple, but I love the shiny fabrics and rainbow theme.  The unicorns might not have gripping hands, but their chunky little hooves add a lot to their charm.  They are a total delight, and distinct from the other Honey Bee Acres characters.  So, very long story short, my recommendation is to buy the unicorn family, but get them a Li'l Woodzeez store (or diner!) for all of their culinary needs.


  1. What a great review! Happy almost one year anniversary of restarting the blog again! First off the shops are amazing! And I am definitely craving that diner, it looks just like one that I visited in New Jersey! I would also like to say that the older calico critters have gripping hands. I don’t know why they changed it but my older calico critters all have gripping hands. I also wish that you had added on the calico critters general store, it reminds me of these sets and I think that it would be a good comparison. I own two copies of the Lil’ Woodzeez bakery, the one I got when I was little has since lost all the pieces and the other has everything. The unicorn family is so adorable! Calico critters need to have a unicorn family, but the sloths are pretty cute to. When I am directly comparing my calico critters general store and my bakery I notice that the quality and details are better with the calico critters set (it even has a mini credit card that can be swiped in the cash register!) but both are valued in my house. And to finish I will say that I am still in suspense over the Cinderella dolls over on My Twinn 😅

    1. I'd love to add in the Calico Critters store! I just had too many things going on already for this review. ;D I was looking at Calico Critters grocery stores a while ago, and it seemed like the older one was vastly better than the current version...and also much more expensive and hard to find, so I procrastinated. Typical, lol.

      I am also in suspense over those poor My Twinn Cinderellas! They're sitting on my workbench with glass eyes and blank faces. So sad. But I have literally no time in my life. I wish I could say when I'd get back to that project, but I have no idea. :(

      Thank you for the anniversary wishes! I'm excited about that!! :D

    2. Calico Critters has a new pony mother and two daughters. They look like unicorns if you give them a unicorn horn headband :)

  2. I'm thinking the golden/orangey hexagonal jars are the honey. Maybe?

    1. You might be right!! I didn't think of that since those jars are red and not yellow/gold, but the shape makes sense. Let's just say that's the honey. ;)

  3. These are some of my absolute favorite reviews of yours. Cute, small, fuzzy animal figurines, miniature food and other items, diorama-like playsets... all of this is my kryptonite. Whenever we walk past the Sylvanian Families section at our toy store, I tell my mom that I MUST start a collection of tiny flocked animals and playsets... one day, when I have the space and budget, haha! I remember being utterly impressed by the Li'l Woodzeez sets when you first reviewed those. And honestly, despite some of the flaws, it's the same for me when it comes to the Honey Bee Acres General Store. Maybe it's just my miniature and cute animal-loving brain screaming at me to ignore some of the obvious flaws, lol. I was wondering, have you also looked at Re-Ment miniatures before? Re-Ment is this company from Japan which creates insanely detailed miniature food, furniture, make-up, house décor -- you name it, they have it. They've also done a lot of collaborations with other companies such as Nintendo (their Pikachu bakery, café and room sets are the holiest of grails to me), but I bet the 'regular' sets would also fit great with some of the playsets you've reviewed here, or with dolls like Barbie. I'm not sure how easy they are to find in the US (it's a real pain over here), but might be fun to check out if you ever get the chance!

    P.S. I spotted that sneaky little unicorn above the store sign!

    P.P.S. Yes, please show off more of the diner on Patreon!

    1. Just an edit, I searched the blog and of course you already know about Re-Ment! I totally forgot you reviewed some super cool skeleton figurines from them a few years ago. Actually pretty appropriate with spooky season coming up soon!

    2. Hi Tali! The cute fuzzy animal reviews are my husband's favorite, too. In fact, this time I asked him what I should do next: Disney, Junior High, or fuzzy animal playsets, and he was adamant about the fuzzies! It's always fun to review them, so I happily agreed.

      I know about Re-Ment, as you surmised, and this is how my typical interaction with those minis goes: find website shop, browse selections, put ten things into cart, check total balance...freak out!! They're SO cute and so realistic, but I always want more than I can afford.

      I knew somebody would have fun finding that sassy baby unicorn in every pic. Thank you for noticing. :D

    3. He certainly made a great choice!!

      Aaah, I totally get that! Once one little set catches your attention, it's so easy to find another one, and another one, and another one... The Re-Ment rabbit hole is very cute and VERY deep, hahaha!

  4. All your posts are slowly convincing me that I need another collection... 😅

    1. Sorry! ;D Honestly, collecting the little animals is fine, but getting addicted to mini food is expensive!

  5. Ohhh those unicorns, I love them! So so adorable! And the little playsets. We onky have Sylvanian family here, but I love all these sets and I own a little house and it‘s so well made.
    I would also love to see more of that oittle diner on patreon. And that food looks so real!

    1. Thank you, Séverine! The unicorns are the best, and I love the handmade food. I feel sad that the shop went out of business. I'll definitely put more pics of the diner on Patreon. I'm curious how it works with the new Foodie Mini Brands!

  6. How nice to see the littlest pet shop Blythe dolls again! I have two and they are so charismatic.

  7. I was about to comment that I think the orange jars are honey, but I see someone beat me to it!
    That unicorn family is too stinking cute. I love Twinkle the baby unicorn causing havoc in the background!
    Also, never ever apologize for writing long reviews that go on tangents! They're an absolute treat. I love learning about new dolls and toys and what better way to do that than through your thorough and witty reviews. Besides, we as readers can just pause our reading and return later, so the length really isn't a problem.
    Thank you for taking the time to make another great review!

    1. Oh, I feel like I worded it wrong - what I mean is, to me, the longer the review the better! :D
      I live in Finland, and what we get on the shelves is a mere fraction of the selection you see in the US. I often imagine how fun it would be to just be able to walk down the toy aisle over there, gawking at the (by comparison) massive selection. Also, toys are very, VERY expensive here (you would faint if you saw our prices!). I often might see something that catches my fancy, but I have to walk away due to being unable to pay or justify the high price. I get to live my toy dreams vicariously through your blog, haha! :D

  8. I saw the Woodzeez shopping cart without the basket and immediately knew that if I had had that as a kid, I would've used it as a scooter or wheelchair or something for my Kelly dolls ALL the time. these sets are pretty cute- I'm especially interested by that Honey Bee Acres van! I wonder how the Link Nendoroid would do with these scale-wise...

  9. I love mini food, all these playsets look like they'd be a lot of fun for a child. I love your long reviews too - more to read and enjoy!
    Would you consider doing Sunday Surprise with mini foods? There's various Zuru ones including a relatively new Foodie line which is takeaway foods (with less plastic packaging than most of Zuru's surprise offerings thankfully). I'd love to see you pose them with various dolls. The items sadly are not all at the same scale but with a variety of different dolls I reckon they could still have a party with each having the items suited to their scale.

    1. By the way, I couldn't post my comment unless I chose Anonymous but I've previously commented as Alison (I'm over on Patreon too)

  10. I love all the mini sets! The diner has been in my Target cart forever waiting for a holiday toy sale.
    Your reviews are always both thorough and entertaining; never apologize for the length! I loved how you brought back all of the critters personalities on their shopping trips.

  11. Love your posts! Thought it worth a mention that the Lil Woodzeez Market has some drop down steps in the back so you can put a salesperson at each stand. It's a neat feature that is not obvious or advertised at all.

  12. I saw this Honey Bee Acres general store set in B&M this week. I think it was about £25. I've never seen the brand in the UK before. There were some sets of characters but not much else.