Tag: Store of the Month

Congratulations to Shenanigans in Charlottesville, VA for Winning September’s Store of the Month

Congratulations to Shenanigans in Charlottesville, VA for Winning September’s Store of the Month

blueAs if it’s name wasn’t clear enough, Shenanigans is all about the funny business. Our sales representative, Bastien, recommended Shenanigans for their character! From being family owned, to having the friendliest staff, and creating a store with a little bit of everything available, there’s clearly something special about this shop! Although its filled to the brim with entertainment, Shenanigans also has the rich history to match.

Shop owner, Kai, moved from Florida to Charlottesville in the 70’s with her 4 week old son. Working as a copy writer there was never a shortage of tasks that she could lend her creative wizardry to, and add some flare. Just like mom, her son was a little go-getter. As a fast learner, he was walking by 9 months and out growing his old toys and games quicker than most. This left Kai having to travel far just to get those toys and games that were developmentally challenging and gender neutral. With other mothers in the area doing the same, it was clear the Charlottesville needed a toy store where the community could find that big city quality, and diversity, without traveling hours north. It was during these pilgrimages in search of fun that Kai saw a future for herself and family. Since she had also been looking for work with a young child, she was able to design a job with built in childcare that was just right for her. Thus Shenanigans was born!

 store 4With it’s door open for over 40 years, this shop knows fun like no other! In 1974 Shenanigans first welcomed those who sought out fun engaging toys and games without the journey. Fast forward to today where they still provide just that. Even though they aren’t the only toy store in the neighborhood, Shenanigans still reigns supreme! Kai states, “what sets them apart is their product selections”. With such a cute, little store, every item within those four walls is curated by their staff with maximum fun in mind. Knowing what makes customers squeal in delight is something that keeps the neighborhood coming back. Tailoring their selection so that games are completely original and never stale is exactly what puts Shenanigans at the top of the list!

Dr Eureka BoxAs far a Blue Orange Games, Kai would have to name Dr. Eureka as one of her favorites. Going into detail, Kai says our games have such bright and nice art and there’s always a great eye-catching factor.  But what truly lies beneath the cover is Blue Orange’s dedication to inspiring STEM and core developmental skills that don’t go unnoticed to parents. Kai motto is that “if it’s boring, it’s not educational, since they’re not going to play it”. This blunt but true statement by Kai really resonates with our product line.

Kai elaborated that the kids don’t need to think about the skills they’re gaining, but rather the fun should conceal it. When playing with building blocks, a child doesn’t necessarily know he or she is developing a basis of engineering, nor do they understand they are growing familiarity with STEM when they play a game like Dr. Microbe. Blue Orange has the same values; learning should be fun, and if kids already want to play the games then half the work is already done. Shenanigans’ philosophy is to leave the term educational out by labeling their games and toys as fun! As a type of parental shenanigans, or a method of mischievousness, kids are left having uninhibited fun without knowing that their developing better motor and strategic, critical thinking skills!store 1

When considering their success, Shenanigans is no stranger to being a community staple. Kai thanks her neighborhood for being the perfect location, as it is a region with few chain stores and many unique shops that are supported by their community. Not to mention being between two hubs of the city, Shenanigans is accessible for all, either for a quick stop in for the grand kids, or an afternoon spent exploring with the kids. Make sure to grab a copy of the original Shenanigans Coupon Book, with monthly deals such as Board Game Discount November coming up, it’s sure to be a good time! 

Working with Shenanigans has been a pleasure and we proudly award them September’s Store of the Month. As a important part of Charlottesville , Shenanigans is a place where you can find something for everyone, from the helpful staff to the perfect game. Shenanigans is always reachable via their website here or at 601 West Main Street, Charlottesville, VA.

Congratulations!!StoreoftheMonth_HiRes

Adventure Toys – January Store of the Month!

Adventure Toys – January Store of the Month!

Blue Orange Games is lucky to partner with a fantastic bunch of retailers who are passionate about their businesses and supportive of our games. We want to do more to recognize the stores and individuals that make our mission possible. That’s how our new monthly spotlight on an outstanding Blue Orange Games retailer came about!

Adventure Toys in beautiful Los Altos is one of the stand out stores that make up our supportive network of local Bay Area toy stores. Charmingly Situated on tree lined Main Street next to a mix of other small business, Adventure Toys has been providing personalized customer service and a unique selection of playthings since 1986.

Our regional sales manager, Xavier nominated Adventure Toys for our first Store of the Month of 2014 for their strong community values and commitment to promoting our games. The store owner, Leslie always calls us when she organizes an event, and since it’s just a hop, skip and a jump down the freeway, we always are happy to join!

I had a great conversation with Leslie, who gave me some interesting insight on what it takes to run a toy store, gender issues in toys, and the importance of knowing your customers and market.

adventure toys store frontLeslie’s coming to own a Toy Store doesn’t seem unusual, taking into consideration her professional background. She had worked in retail since her college days (when she also studied retail business), completing a manager’s training course at Macy’s corporate and then going on to work for Niemen Marcus in women’s ready to wear. She was with American Express when her son was born, but decided to leave the corporate world to spend more time with her baby. When he was entering 1st grade, Leslie’s mother found a listing for a toy store business coincidentally being sold by a mother and daughter team. Leslie and her mom took over the store in 1999, and it has been going strong ever since, although her mom isn’t involved any more. It’s easy to see how the store has prospered, as Leslie’s motivated personality and business savvy was very apparent in our conversation. She works well over the standard 40 hours a week, and chooses to personally handle all aspects of her business from payroll, to marketing and buying. She told me that she enjoys having more control and could never go back to working in the corporate environment. I asked her what advice she would give to someone who wanted to open a toy store and she replied cautiously that it would depend on the person’s background and business knowledge. It’s not all fun and games, owning a toy store. Leslie is well acquainted with the complexities of owning a small business, especially retail, in which margins are low and staff turnover can be high. That’s her biggest challenge, she told me, maintaining high quality store associates. She has found success employing bubbly and competent high school and college students, as well as local moms who want to work part time.

But it’s clear that Leslie is passionate about her chosen path and her community. She is very involved in the Los Altos merchants’ organization, and has even served on the board. The group is always organizing events for the community that help local merchants boost their business, such as Halloween trick or treating, Easter egg hunts, and holiday strolls. Every year on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, the organization puts on a Festival of Lights inspired by the Disney Land spectacle to entertain local families and of course, Adventure Toys always has a float.

I tried to get her to divulge what was the most interesting or unusual thing to happen at her store, hoping she would tell me about the time Mark Zuckerburg strolled in looking for the latest Lego set or the like. Being in the heart of Silicon Valley and a neighbor to Stanford University, Adventure Toys sees it’s “fair amount of famous people,” Leslie admitted, but she insisted that she and her staff don’t treat them any different. Everyone that walks in receives the same amount of attentive and personalized service to ensure that they find that special gift and leave with a positive lasting impression. Adventure Toy’s strong customer service orientation and curation of unique and high quality products gives the shop a boutique feel that the discerning customers of Los Altos appreciate.

Adventure toys inside

Leslie seems to have mastered the art of knowing your customer and market. Because her store is located in an affluent area where a considerable percentage of the population has advanced university degrees, she has noticed that certain items, such as games are particularly popular, so she makes it a point to stock a large selection of the best brands. Leslie explained that a lot of the parents in her area are very concerned with the amount of their kids’ digital interaction and time spent with screens, and they look to games as a way to help instill important values and skills in their kids. Jigsaw puzzles are another popular option for family time, especially the “family puzzles” category that has big and little pieces, allowing young and old to play. Leslie is wary of buying into fads too much and told me that despite their continued popularity, she foresees the burning out of the Rainbow Loom craze and doesn’t want to stock them anymore. Instead she focuses on offer what she knows works, such as games, puzzles, craft kits and science sets…notice a theme?

At the mention of science sets, I brought up a breakout star of 2013, GoldieBlox, and asked her how she felt about the construction toys made to inspire STEM interest in young girls. Debbie Sterling, the young woman who invented GoldieBlox is a Stanford grad and the incredible amount of local press she received in the early days made the sets sell like hot cakes at Adventure Toys.

“Some people argue that by using girly colors and typically female themes, GoldieBlox perpetuates gender roles, rather than going against them which the company claims to do,” I said, wanting to know Leslie’s take on the issue.

“As a toy store owner, I’ve noticed that no matter what you do, there are gender differences. Little girls, I don’t care what you put in front of them, they are still attracted to pink. Debbie did her market research…I don’t have any criticisms at all. She was still trying to get the engineering principals in there,” Leslie replied. In her opinion, Debbie is successful in the goal of GoldieBlox. The pink and “girly” presentation just makes it easier for girls to get it in their hands. As Leslie explained to me, you just have to have the right teacher presenting something properly for a child to latch onto something or explore a particular skill. Not everything has to be gender neutral. “We are the type of store that when a little boy goes to a doll stroller or a girl toy we encourage the parents. It helps the boys learn to nurture.” I was impressed with her approach. With over a decade’s experience in the business, Leslie comes across as someone customers can really trust to help them choose toys that are not only fun but add value to children’s lives. She makes it a point to be knowledgeable about her products and customers’ needs, and certainly has never turned down a staff training session with Blue Orange!

The whole team at Blue Orange Games would like to thank Leslie and the entire team at Adventure Toys for believing in our games and for fostering a warm, open-door relationship over all these years. Congrats!

Bigglesnorts Toys: December’s Store of the Month!

Bigglesnorts Toys: December’s Store of the Month!

Blue Orange Games is lucky to partner with a fantastic bunch of retailers who are passionate about their businesses and supportive of our games. We want to do more to 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!

Store of the Month: December 2013

We are pleased to announce that Bigglesnorts in Albuquerque, New Mexico is our Store of the Month for December! Renaud, a member of our sales team, nominated the store after being impressed by their dedication to wholesome family fun, and their vocal enthusiasm for our brand, which helped them sell almost a thousand copies of Spot it! in their first year of business.

blue orange

The friendly faces of Bigglesnorts!

We surprised them with a bouquet of blue and orange balloons, candy, and a certificate commemorating their achievement. I caught up with the owner, Jason Penn over the phone to chat with him about his toy store and its success.

About Bigglesnorts Toys:

Video from inside the store courtesy of KASA News

Bigglesnorts Toys believes that fun is what brings families together! And Jason is lucky enough to work alongside his wife Elisa (who doubles as a pediatric physical therapist during the week). Their mission is to educate kids through play, believing that the act of Play is one of the most human experiences in the world (and a natural way of learning). Their catalog of games, toys and books is chosen based on 3 criteria: quality, opportunity for open-ended play, and ease of accessibility / universal appeal. As their website puts it:

  • Quality play comes first. We choose our products first and formost on the basis of quality. We sell toys that last and are fun.
  • Good toys make life more fun! Toys that promote open ended play are the toys that get played with the most. Its our pleasure to bring those toys to your family!
  • Great toys are for everyone! We want everyone to experience the fun for themselves so we always have toys out in the store to be played with!

Growing up, Jason fell in love with toys with LEGOs. He still remembers the very first LEGO he received – Set #928 – a spaceship that he has since built so many times that he can now do it completely from memory! And Jason’s love of playing with physical space shines through in the design of the store.

Bigglesnorts feels warm and inviting inside, with a natural flow that makes it fun to check out all the products. Blue Orange games are prominently displayed on the store’s demo tables so it is easy to play some quick rounds of Fastrack and Spot it! while shopping in the store. Everything is divided in 10 sections – Games, Outdoor, Building Toys, Craft, Transportation (Trains, Cars), Education & Science, Infant/Toddler, Plush, Puzzles, and Books. And each section is organized by age, with the products for younger people closer to the ground. From the cash wrap to the demo tables, the store’s custom-made surfaces are composed of nothing but rounded edges, so you can focus on all the goodies on display without worrying about colliding with any sharp corners.

Jason’s favorite thing about Albuquerque is the close-knit community, with its emphasis on small business and personal connections. And right now, Bigglesnorts is participating in the county’s Shop Local Holiday Campaign:

Coverage of the Shop Local campagin courtesy of KRQE News

Since Bigglesnorts is one of the most unique names we’ve ever come across, I had to ask Jason how the store got its name. The answer is a charming story from Elisa’s childhood: When she was growing up (and to this day) Elisa’s father refused to cuss. He believed there are more colorful and decent ways to express himself! He would make up his own silly, playful, imaginative words when he needed to express his frustration or excitement. So, when it came time to brainstorm ideas for what to call the store, Jason turned to Elisa and asked “What would your dad say if he stubbed his toe?” And she replied, “Ah, BIGGLESNORTS!”

And there you have it, the Bigglesnorts’ guide to success and happiness: be imaginative and don’t forget to play with your family.

Thank you Jason and the superb team at Bigglesnorts in Albuquerque for being a great example and friends of Blue Orange Games.

Go show them some love on Facebook!

Incredible Toy Company: November’s Store of the Month!

Incredible Toy Company: November’s Store of the Month!

Blue Orange Games is lucky to partner with a fantastic bunch of retailers who are passionate about their businesses and supportive of our games. We want to do more to recognize the stores and individuals that make our mission possible. That’s how our new monthly spotlight on an outstanding Blue Orange Games retailer came about!

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Our First Store of the Month

We are pleased to announce that Incredible Toy Company in Blowing Rock, North Carolina is our first Store of the Month for November! Arthur, a member of our sales team, nominated the store after participating in an awesome Play Day they hosted during his September visit. The owner Kathleen and her staff warmly welcomed Arthur and made him feel right at home. Arthur was impressed by their prominent display of our games in the middle of the store and by their vocal enthusiasm for our brand, which has lead Spot it! to be their long standing best seller.

Incredible Toy Company with Blue Orange Games
Arthur with the Incredible Toy Company Team during his September visit.

We surprised them with a bouquet of blue and orange balloons, candy, and a certificate commemorating their achievement. I caught up with the owner, Kathleen Rowell over the phone to chat with her about her toy store and its success.

About the Incredible Toy Company

Incredible Toy Company Blowing Rock
Incredible Toy Company storefront

Incredible Toy Company sits on the main road leading to the nearest big town of Boone, NC, named for legendary frontiersman, Daniel Boone. A good amount of traffic passes by the store, including a lot visitors to a nearby local amusement park. To stand out, Kathleen had her charming, freestanding store painted a bright red with yellow trim. With its sheltered porch and spacious parking lot, the cheery toy store certainly looks inviting to the large number of tourists that pass through the area. Kathleen waxed poetic about the beauty and variety of her state and community, painting a romantic picture of North Eastern American life that I am eager to experience myself. Right now, they are enjoying beautiful fall colors and a plethora of harvest festivals. A favorite she mentioned is the Woolly Worm Festival, a 35 year old tradition that culminates into the race of fuzzy caterpillars along a length of string (there’s much more to it than that; over 20,000 revelers attend the winter welcoming event!).

Of course, I had to ask Kathleen how Incredible Toy Company got started and what made her open up for business. Twenty years ago, Kathleen and her husband were raising 3 small boys, and Kathleen was becoming frustrated that there was nowhere in town to buy quality toys. Having 11 years experience in retail, she felt confident she could do it better. She did her homework and when her youngest was just 4, she opened Incredible Toy Company. She has been fortunate to have the help of her husband who doubles as her carpenter and handyman. What a pal!

Kathleen and her staff are “big game people.” Their store sports an 8 foot high set of shelves spanning the length of wall full of 350 different games! There is also a separate demo table to easily show customers how to play. But it appears that Kathleen likes puzzles the best of all. She is proud of her extensive selection and the 3,000 piece puzzle displayed under glass on her store counter. The Incredible Toy Store is also a big distributor of Playmobil products, a favorite of kids for decades. Her shop wonderfully preserves the tradition of the best in playthings, loved throughout generations.

Because Incredible Toy Company is located near many ski resorts and close to neighboring states, Virginia and Tennessee, about 85% of her customers are tourists. She has found the most effective promotion has been adding her store in visitor maps and guides of the area. But for the tight-knit local community, fun in-store events like Arthur’s Play Day always do the trick!

When asked if she had a superstar member of staff contributing to the success of her store,  she was quick to let me know that she couldn’t single anyone out because everyone actively contributes to the upbeat, happy atmosphere of her store. She said, “Working here is laid back and fun, not a lot of high pressure. They really have fun showing people Spot It. We like to play with them all!”

And there you have it, the not-so-secret to success and happiness: love what you do and stay positive!

Thank you Kathleen and the superb team at Incredible Toy Company in North Carolina for being a great example and friends of Blue Orange Games.

Go show them some love!