The playset - made of mahogany and covered with epoxy paint - is the patented creation of Ronald and Russell Mailloux, owners of Mailloux Brothers Construction in Methuen and, since April, of the new toy store in the mall.
But this realistic, 1,200-pound behemoth is not at all out of place in a room filled with bulldozers, tractors, backhoes and other vehicles of varying sizes and colors.
The imposing centerpiece was actually the inspiration for the store. The Mailloux brothers have built 10 of these playsets during the past nine years in their Methuen workshop using decades of engineering experience.
"We built the first one in complete secrecy," Ron said, referring to the gift he gave his son, R.J., for his fifth birthday nine years ago.
"If it hadn't been for him, none of this would have happened," Ron said.
The brothers decided to build and sell the playsets commercially, attending local fairs to advertise their gargantuan creations.
It's been a time-consuming process because the brothers spend a week and a half to build each playset.
"When everyone else is sleeping, we're working," Ron said.
To date the brothers have sold seven Little Diggers to customers outside their family in Beverly, Tewksbury, North Reading and other area towns.
But Ron and Russ knew they couldn't build their whole business on expensive playsets - their life-sized diggers sell for $25,000 each - so they started selling regular-sized toys at the fairs in 2005.
"We tested to see if there was a real need (for these toys)," Russ said. "And overwhelmingly we were one of the popular vendors."
They started their online business in September 2006 and have been shipping to "all four corners of the U.S." ever since, Russ said.
The Little Digger store sells puzzles, building blocks, books, videos and even its own clothing line alongside the trucks. Ron and Russ target children as young as toddlers as well as older kids and even adults who collect die-cast trucks.
The brothers also stock several pedal-powered vehicles, including a two-speed tractor.
"Unfortunately, we're too big to try it," Ron said.
Ron and Russ will be bringing remote-controlled vehicles and, eventually, their own custom-made videos and books to their current inventory of about 150 products, which range from $3 to $300 in price. They also want to build a play space for kids who come to the store.
The brothers admit that the current Manchester location is farther north than they originally wanted - the Mall at Rockingham in Salem, N.H., didn't have any space - but Manchester has its perks, Ron and Russ said. Sometimes a traveler from nearby Manchester Airport comes to the store and asks if there is a franchise in their state, they said.
For the moment, Manchester is the only location, though the Mailloux brothers hope to have five stores in the next few years. They're aiming for the Mall at Rockingham, the Burlington Mall in Massachusetts and perhaps a location on the North Shore.
They've already been offered spots in New Hampshire's Fox Run Mall and the Palisade Mall in New York City, but they said they aren't prepared to expand beyond their current location. Close family friend and current store manager Carolyn Scala runs the store with eight, part-time employees.
"Some day we're gonna reach the West Coast," Russ added. "We're confident of that."
According to the brothers, sales in their new store have been somewhat modest, but that's typical of retail in the summer. At the same time, they have seen continual growth from month to month.
"Believe it or not, we depend on two to three months out of the year to carry us," Russ said.
Those months center around the Christmas season, and the ultimate success of Little Digger will depend upon how much business they generate then.
"All of the research we've done shows that the toy market is only going to grow," Russ said.
When asked whether they would consider expanding their audience to include female shoppers, Ron and Russ said they don't plan on it.
Then Ron pulled out pictures of the two-story, mahogany playhouse he made for his daughter Rachael. The Victorian-style house has running water, electricity and a garage for her Barbie Jeep. Young girls from all over the neighborhood play in it constantly, he said.
As Ron said earlier, "Sometimes you start out and you don't know where you're gonna end up."