Author: Amelia

Toy Town in Idaho is our August Store of the Month

Toy Town in Idaho is our August Store of the Month

At Blue Orange Games, we can’t take all the credit for our hot games! We owe a huge debt of gratitude to our fabulous retailers who give us feedback and put energy, passion, and time into their businesses every day. This space is dedicated to a very special retailer each month in order to highlight the stores and individuals that bring Blue Orange games from shelves into homes and that do us the honor of introducing us to families in their area. We are pleased to announce that our Retailer of the Month for August is none other than Toy Town in Idaho!

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Xavier, from our sales team, said he wanted to nominate this retailer “more than ever!” because the people at Toy Town are super excited about our games and always welcome us into their stores.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Rose, a dedicated manager at Toy Town who caught me up on their story. Toy Town began with “three guys in a garage,” Rose said, not so much a “town” since they didn’t even have a storefront except for online. It then expanded into a full-fledged family brick and mortar business, with two locations in Twin Falls and Meridian, Idaho. But the fun hasn’t stopped there. It turns out they are opening up a third location just this August!

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When asked about what made Toy Town unique, Rose exclaimed that it was the sheer variety of offered products. She then rapidly listed a dazzling array of different games, puzzles, DIY arts and science kits with everything from educational models to rockets, zip lines, and radio operated vehicles. She noted that their stores excel in providing the best specialty games around and barely tends to stock the typical retail items. Upon further independent research, I found this description even downplayed the product diversity at Toy Town. They have a whole planetarium displaying lasers and black lights, a kid play house with movies and toys to enjoy, large in-store demos, and even a candy store that stocks homemade fudge and old fashioned candies. The focus, Rose explained, is to make the store and products as hands on and interactive as possible, and provide knowledgeable staff who can demonstrate products and aid customers like no online shopping can.

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After seeing all they had to offer I really began to see what Rose meant when she said that if you want to start a toy and game store you need to be able to do ten things at once, all day every day. It’s complete chaos a majority of the time and so managing people with a firm but patient way becomes crucial, and you need to be totally dedicated and love what you do, because that’s what makes the work worth it. It’s also necessary to have a few new items in every single department. Since toy and game stores rely on repeat business it’s important that a store doesn’t demo the same item to a returning customer year after year. Besides that it comes down to having a good buyer, staff, and merchandise, apart from knowing the answer to absolutely everything and making sure your employees do too, of course.

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When I asked what made the staff motivated to keep on top of all the new products she laughed and said “Me, it’s my job to motivate them. I’ve been at this for over twenty years and I remind them it’s not about the money but the experience customers walk out the door with so that they always want to come back and tell you how wonderful a store you are.” She mentioned that Blue Orange helps with motivation sometimes as well. Last December the scratch-off prize tree for selling the most Blue Orange games was a huge success, encouraging herself and even the newest employees to sell 86 Spot Its in just a few weeks. She thought if Blue Orange provided this promo monthly she would use it!

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Rose believes games like Spot It and Flash are her favorite type of Blue Orange games because staff can explain them in under thirty seconds and then start playing with the customers, but as for uniqueness of game play, Doodle Quest is by far the best because though it’s initially hard to sell, once people play the game themselves they have a lot of fun. As a child, Rose enjoyed playing jump rope and Monopoly® because they were things she always did with her brothers and sisters. She believes physical board games teach children things that computer games and apps can’t: that it’s ok to lose, patience, taking turns, teamwork, and most importantly of all, they get children to spend time, laugh with, and learn about their family members. Part of why she loves working for Toy Town is because it is a family company and she gets to do what she did as a child, which is work and play with great people all day long!

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Thanks Toy Town for being a wonderful supporter of Blue Orange and for making room for us in your hearts as well as on your shelves!

 

 

 

Magic Beans in Massachusetts is our July Store of the Month

Magic Beans in Massachusetts is our July Store of the Month

At Blue Orange Games, we can’t take all the credit for our hot games! We owe a huge debt (more than monopoly money) to our fabulous retailers who give us feedback and put energy, passion, and time into their businesses every day. This space is dedicated to a very special retailer each month in order to highlight the stores and individuals that bring Blue Orange games from shelves into homes and that do us the honor of introducing us to families in their area. We are pleased to announce that our Retailer of the Month for July is none other than Magic Beans, located in Massachusetts!

Renaud, from our sales team, nominated this retailer not only because they have been a supportive Blue Orange customer for years, but also because of their great staff and involvement with the community. He said that when he visits them to do staff training, everyone is enthusiastic to receive him and learn new games. He also cited Eli’s six Magic Bean stores as demonstrating a successful business model because they are heavily involved with the community and dedicated to helping customers.

When asked about the “magic” behind his success, Eli focused largely on the importance of hiring procedures and his desire to give back locally. Using previous experience as an evaluator of private high school admission applicants, the first question Eli asks business owners having difficulty with their staff is “What’s your recruiting process?”  At Magic Bean, the quality requirements for prospective staff are stringent and broad. The company spends a lot of time finding the right people to work for them, seeking engaging, smart staff that make friendly coworkers and help generate the stores’ happy environment. Beyond this, Magic Bean particularly values curiosity in its employees. With over 3,000 different products for sale, it takes a sense of discovery and a lot of initiative for an employee to pick up a new game on the shelf and figure it out so they can demo it to a customer without relying solely on their training. It is especially impressive that Magic Beans has maintained this consistency in its staff culture as it has expanded, and in the end, that has to come down to who they hire and the training they provide.

Founders Eli and Sherl Gurock
Founders Eli and Sherl Gurock

As for community involvement, Magic Beans prefers grassroots efforts to reach local businesses and the larger community. They support resident children’s charities, schools, camps, and other youth organizations in the area. One of their largest outreaches, however, would be the Magic Beans baby expo “Drool,” a huge day event where new and expectant parents can learn about different brands and baby products in a single location from expert company representatives who demo everything from strollers and car seats to accessories and games. It’s a great way to get a hands-on feel for products, compare features, and ask questions. One attendee described it as “the Apple store” of baby products because of the bubbly, knowledgeable and helpful staff. For more on this event see here.

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Eli first got into the baby product and toys industry around a decade ago when he saw that all the toy stores in his area had closed. He then spotted an opportunity in the trend for modern baby products (“modern” meaning more specialty goods of higher quality) and wanted to provide that for his area. As for the future, he is very interested in recent technology available in the field of bio-metrics. Eli is constantly researching and perhaps a rare expert on the connection between baby products and toys and games.

Every weekend you can catch Eli reading up on marketing tactics and how the shopping habits of customers have evolved since last season, so that he can understand them and serve them better. This is one of his favorite parts of the job, though if he could just sell games and strollers all day long without thinking about marketing he would be perfectly happy. This is most likely because the flip side to ever-changing customers is it never gets easier, and there is always competition. It can be very disheartening as a retailer when you try everything and nothing seems to work, especially if you, like Eli, take your employees livelihoods very seriously. The only thing to do in such times is become resilient, taking encouragement from each customer you help and with whom you create a positive interaction.

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Eli’s favorite toy as a child was GI Joe. He loved the aspect of make-believe in such toys, how action figures could play out whatever event he had in his imagination, and he truly thinks they don’t make toys like it anymore. For being produced in the 80’s, GI Joe excelled in quality, and was full of intricate detail and hideaway control parts that have somehow been lost in the era of cheap, out-sourced manufacturing. When his store opened, the quality of our classic wooden Gobblet pieces were not lost on him and it became his first favorite game to sell, which he had stocked not only in his store but also in his home! Since then, Eli has continued to be impressed by the wonderful innovations from the team at Blue Orange Games. Although we can’t be completely sure it’s only because of our great games that he comes to see us at Toy Fair or also because he loves to have a glass of champagne with our CEO afterwards. Either way, we couldn’t be happier to have such a quality-smart and huge-hearted retailer repping our games at six stores in Massachusetts to families who already enjoy Blue Orange games and those who haven’t discovered us yet!

Here’s a big cheer and thank you to our friends at Magic Beans! And I’ll make it extra big because… it’s their 11th anniversary this July 7th!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Magic Beans!!!

PS. If you want to drop by and wish them a happy birthday as well, you can locate Magic Beans at:

Boston, MA
Brookline, MA
Norwell, MA
Wellesley, MA
Cambridge, MA
Fairfield, CT

By: Amelia Chantarotwong

 

The Board Game Barrister in Glendale, Wisconsin is our June Store of the Month

The Board Game Barrister in Glendale, Wisconsin is our June Store of the Month

Blue Orange Games is lucky to partner with a fantastic bunch of retailers who are businesses and supportive of our games. We want to do more to Barrister_Welcome_Banner_WEB (1)recognize the stores and individuals that make our mission possible.  That’s how our monthly spotlight on an outstanding Blue Orange Games retailer came about! We are pleased to announce that The Board Game Barrister in Glendale, Wisconsin is our Store of the Month for June!

Our sales manager, Florian, nominated this store for their excellent work promoting and bringing their customers both gamer games and more family-oriented games. He highly commends the owner, Gordon Lugauer, for the manner in which he handles his business as well as his “perfect knowledge of the industry.” Gordon, whom I had the pleasure of speaking with, first began playing Dungeons and Dragons at the age of five and the game was a persistent and well-loved influence in his life up into junior high school. He also has a long-standing love for abstract strategy games, particularly those made out of wood. It’s no surprise then that he was attracted to one of our first games, Gobblet, when his store was just starting out and felt he had to stock it. So The Board Game Barrister has been watching and supporting our line since the very beginning which is why they deserve a big THANK YOU from the whole team over here at Blue Orange Games.

Gordon didn’t always know he was destined to open a thriving toy store which would become Blue Orange’s Store of the Month! In fact, he started out as a technical consultant and had been studying to become a lawyer when he realized that he wanted to have fun, engaging interactions face to face with people! That’s how, without much preparation, the bright idea hit him to open what he thought would be a part-time addition to his law school studies. He called it the Board Game Barrister because a barrister is a lawyer who advocates for people in the higher courts of law, which is what he was studying to become. Needless to say this “side project” soon took up all of his time and though he always meant to go back to studying law as soon as things at the store hit a plateau, things at The Board Game Barrister just haven’t slowed down!

Gordon credits dumb luck that he studied just enough law as is useful for owning your own business and negotiating. He also happens to live above a long-vacated one hundred year old movie theater and conjoined carpet store which he has converted into his toy warehouse. But that’s as far as luck goes; the rest is insight and hard prep work.

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What makes a toy store successful, Gordon says, is the ability to listen to what his customers want by how they speak through their actions. It’s about getting at the heart of the experience, the feel they get in the store and then also the gameplay and memories they are taking home with them. At his store, it is a “barristers” job to advocate on behalf of the people who are going to receive or play the game and shine a light on the experience a customer would be getting so that they are already equipped mentally to have a good time or to convey that enthusiasm to the person whom they are giving the gift. A good toy store has to nail that mentality or else customers would just buy the game online.

It may be hard for our online readers to see the impact of Gordon’s attitude on the store and employees but it is clear that at The Board Game Barrister, they are doing something right. After all the hard work choosing games at Toy Fair and prepping for Christmas like Santa Claus himself, Gordon is blown away by the sheer number of heart-warming interactions his store facilitates during the holiday season and all year round. In particular, one of his favorite things is seeing a new hire really getting ‘it’ by taking the right initiatives and then using that development somewhere positively. He knows his store is doing something right when a past employee says “the things I learned working at The Barrister I use EVERYDAY” and he is very proud of some of them who have moved on to become teachers or are very good in their specific fields.

By the very way he talks about his business it is obvious that though Gordon loves games, he invests in the people. I was surprised how modest he was when it came to telling me about his store’s involvement into the community. Turns out dedicated crowds of thirty to fifty people come into both of his locations late every Friday night from the local area just to play games, an impressive fact that I felt he greatly understated. I’d elaborate, but perhaps a quote from the Barrister’s official store handbook describes this phenomenon best:

“In addition to the open game library (which is available anytime) we have a calendar of scheduled events. On Friday nights, a regular crowd of hooligans emerges from the cracks of geekdom to grace us with their presence. We affectionately refer to these people as “The Magic Players.” We like them, they spend money on cardboard crack; they’re friendly. Generally, we let them do their own thing but they do take up many tables.”

What better way to foster love for your store than to open it up for customers to not only buy the games but also to make fun memories inside of it!

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Thank you to Board Game Barrister for their continued support and love of Blue Orange Games. If you’re ever in Wisconsin before 11pm on a Friday night and want to play with some “geeky hooligans,” just know that The Board Game Barrister will still be open.

 

By: Amelia Chantarotwong