Friday, August 29, 2008

Blast from the past

A customer walked into Mitchell's the other day and told me a wonderful story from 30 some years ago that proves that good customer service is irreplaceable in retail.
She asked Bonnie, one of our salespeople if any of the Mitchell's were around, so Bonnie called me. I met the woman and she told me a story. About 30 years ago, they had just moved to the area to be closer to the duPont Hospital for Children - their daughter was restricted to her bed in a sort of body cast. Mitchell's had just opened The Fabric Den - a store that was attached to Mitchell's and sold fabric, sewing machines, patterns, etc. I vaguely remember the Fabric Den, but I clearly remember the sign. It was pretty clever. We called it the Fabric Den because it was a smaller storefront (the current home of the coffee/cupcake shop next to Happy Harry's in the Fairfax Shopping Center....mmmm....cupcakes) next to Mitchell's so it was kinda a 'den.' The sign had a lion on it, which was made up of different swatches of fabric. So, Mitchell's had a contest to name the lion on the sign. My aunt, Joan Hicks, at that time wrote for a local weekly newspaper, The Town Talk. We had hundreds of entrants into the contest and finally selected a winner. The winner chose the name Dan D. Lion. The winner won a sewing machine and was interviewed by my aunt for her column in The Town Talk. The winner, of course, was the woman's daughter. She told me that for the ten months she was constricted to bed, this was one of her highlights. She also told me that her daughter would make sure that if they needed something, they made sure that Mitchell's didn't have it before they would buy it elsewhere. She still has that sewing machine. She brings her eleven-year-old son into Mitchell's. I dug up this ad from our archives. I also found a photo of Darla with the sewing machine!

Hopefully, we can continue that kind of experience in YoYo Joe's, that's certainly our focus - to keep things local, to keep things personal, to treat people in a way that they will remember and want to come back to our store.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

More cool toys on the way to YoYo Joe's

Alex is a cat! A ride-on cat! Who never wanted to ride a cat when they were a wee toddler? Well, wait, I never really thought about riding a cat when I was a kid, but then again, Alex the Ride On Cat wasn't around then, was he? Ha! Gotcha!

Hand crafted from wood from Boikido, a French toy company. We're excited by the stuff coming in from all over the world to YoYo Joe's.

Our first product has arrived!

Yay! We have stuff! Not so surprisingly, our first order of product came from our good friends and fellow First-Staters, McNeil Designs, the people who make the ├╝ber cool games You've Been Sentenced and Twisted Fish. We've know Don and Martin at McNeil Designs for years through Mitchell's and Mitchell's was actually the first retailer of You've Been Sentenced.

Now all we need is a lease, fixtures, computers, employees, marking guns, check out counter, point of sale system, desks, cash registers, checks, and seemingly one billyun other things. Whew!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Live, on your radio, it's YoYo Joe!

I will be sitting in with John Sadak, the voice of the Wilmington Blue Rocks, for the third and fourth inning of the game on Sunday, August 31st. Tune into AM 1290 (The Ticket) in Wilmington or 1410 WDOV in Dover to hear me. If you're lucky (and by 'lucky,' I mean 'not lucky at all'), you might hear my spot-on impression of Philadelphia Phillies announcer Harry Kalas, honed by years of listening to Harry.
To listen to AM 1290 steaming, click here
To listen to 1410 WDOV streaming, click here
If I'm lucky, I will be able to pitch YoYo Joe's during the broadcast.

Go Rocks!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Barbie 'makes do' with $100 million

Despite winning it's copyright infringement lawsuit against Bratz manufacturer MGA Entertainment, Reuters is reporting that Mattel was awarded 'only' $100 million. Mattel had been seeking an award of $2 billion and it's shares fell 3.7 percent in after-hours trading. It's a drop in the bucket of what they were seeking and should allow MGA to survive this penalty.
Reportedly, Barbie (above) was on suicide watch and had strapped a belt of explosives around her waist in protest - all while still maintaining her trademark smile. Read more about the lawsuit here and here.

Cool toys coming to YoYo Joe's

Since we don't actually have any inventory in stock right now, we're gonna post some of the cool new toys that we having coming in. These should all be available when we open in November.

The first of these is new from Melissa & Doug - who make awesome traditional wooden toys and plush. This is the newest addition to the Pretend Food line - the slice and bake cookie set - with cookies, spatula, knife, baking sheet and oven mitt! Plus, it's low-carb! (please do not attempt to eat Melissa & Doug wooden cookies, they will leave you in splinters).


OK, I may be biased, but this logo rocks your socks. You know it, I know it and your little doggie does too. Thanks to K3N, who created this logo for us. K3N rocks!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Target Opening Date: November 1st

So, we're hoping to officially open in just over two months. That's our target - November 1st. We're on our way, but have a long way to go. We've got a big laundry list of stuff that has to get done. Soon, we'll post the stores official logo. We also are planning on a launch party - sometime in mid-late October. If you have any interest in attending, it will be on a Saturday night, just sign up for our e-mail list in the upper right corner of the blog.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

YoYoJoe's is officially an LLC.

So, I drove down to Dover today to register YoYoJoe's as an LLC (Limited Liability Company). I got there a little before 1 pm and got to wait around till 5 to get my LLC certificate.

Things to do in Dover when you're waiting for an LLC certificate?

• Open a bank account for YoYoJoe's at the Wilmington Trust on State Street
• Eat at Jake's
• Park behind the Red Roof and check your e-mail on their internet access
• Shop at the Dover Mall (Swim trunks at Old Navy for $6! Score!)
• Walk the Mall in Dover (sadly, despite living in Delaware my entire life, I have never been to the Capital in Dover - it's really quite nice!)
• Wait in the lobby of the Division of Corporations on Federal Street (I snuck the lousy photo above from my chair) until 5:05 pm.

As of 1:33 pm today, YoYoJoe's LLC is officially a Delaware company. Earlier in the day, I got us a Federal E.I. number and business license. So, now we're nice and legal-like.

All we need is a product, fixtures, a built-out location, staff, bags, a sign, computers, a POS system, an accounting system and lots of other stuff.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

It's a go!

I'm happy to report that our financing came through.

YoYoJoe's Toys & Fun is gonna happen.


Keep checking for the latest info on the new store. Things should start happening pretty quickly now. Our target date to open is November 1st, and to make that happen, we're gonna have to start getting things done. Fast.

Toy Bill is law

Dubya signed it, so it's law.

The Toy Safety bill that was overwhelmingly passed by the House and the Senate was signed into law by President Bush. This law beefs up the powers of the Consumer Product Safety Commission and significantly reduces the amount of lead and pthalates that can be in toys.

Acting Chairman of the CPSC Nancy Nord commented on the signing of the bill by President Bush on August 14, 2008 “The new product safety legislation signed into law today is a victory for parents and consumers. New regulatory authorities and enforcement tools, many of which I asked of Congress last year, will make it easier for CPSC to find and recall unsafe products made around the world. CPSC is ready to implement the law fully, fairly and in a way that bolsters the safety of children’s products and increases consumer confidence.”

For full text of the law, you can download the Toy Industry of American prepared text here

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Dora, Dora, Dora! What naughty things you say!

A naughty Dora the Explorer walkie-talkie in Huntington, West Virginia apparently overstepped it's 20 yard range and, allegedly, picked up a conversation between truckers on the Pennsylvania Turnpike - 275 miles away. The truckers were talking things. Check out the AP article here.

Toy Bill Passes Senate, Moves on to Bush

The Toy Safety Bill passed the US Senate by a vote of 89-3 and moves one step closer to becoming a law, onto the desk of President Bush. Check this Washington Post article about the safety bill passing the Senate. Click here for the complete text of the Toy Safety Bill.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

International Yo-Yo Open - TODAY in NYC

For those who may be yo-yo minded, the New York International Yo-Yo Open is today in New York City. If I wasn't here, I'd be there. Happily, you can view it online here starting at 12 Noon (EST) on Saturday, August 9th. Check it out!
Streaming .TV shows by Ustream

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

It's been a bad day, please no pictures...

^that's a quote from an REM song.

Anyhow, it's been an unreal day. We were on the front page of the Wilmington News Journal. I was interviewed by WILM, WDEL and WHYY Channel 12. Mobs of people have crowded into Mitchell's buying tons of stuff. It's our biggest sales day since December. Normally, I'd be ecstatic at the sales and press...but, thanks to the nature of the press, it makes for a pretty sad day. Talking to customer after customer today, it's all been memories of the store. I've gotten choked up a couple of times. I grew up here. Some of my earliest memories include running around the old store, hiding in the basement, riding the freight escalator up and down.

I worked at Mitchell's when I was 14. I used to sweep up the sales floor after school. I can't say I was particularly excited about doing it, as most of my friends did things like hang out after school, and I went to work. One day, my dad asked me to move this pile of boxes from the basement. I started doing my work, but I was getting kind of sleepy. I decided that it would be a good idea to huddle up under one of the boxes for a quick nap. As you probably figured out, this wasn't the best idea. A quick nap went a bit longer than I expected and somehow (I never figured out how) my dad discovered me sleeping under a box in the basement. Let's just say my dad was 'displeased.' He was 'displeased' enough that my cousin heard him chewing me out from the front of the store. Ha! Good times.

The day's not done yet, however. Later tonight, we have a yo-yo event at the store - yo-yoers on their way from the World Yo-Yo Contest this past weekend to the New York Open yo-yo contest this coming weekend are stopping into Mitchell's to hang out.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Announcing YoYoJoe's Toys & Fun

Flipping the mood of my last post 180 degrees, I am pleased to announce that my wife (Emily) and I are in the process of opening our own toy store here in Delaware. We've finished our business plan, submitted it to our bank and are waiting to hear from them. We have a retail space we've located - only a mile or so from the current location of Mitchell's. We're cautiously optimistic about our chances. The target date for opening is November 1. The store will differ in that it will be smaller (about 25% smaller) than Mitchell's, and it will focus entirely upon toys - specialty toys.

Our mission statement is:

In a world full of discount bins, big box chains, products made of who knows what, and barely a smile counting as “service,” it’s important to have a place that has our children’s development, education, safety and well-being as its top priorities. At YoYoJoe’s Toys & Fun, we provide educational, safe and really fun toys for our customers in an atmosphere that fosters creativity, enthusiasm, and curiosity. We will strive to be experts in our field and share our knowledge with our customers, so that they can feel good about their purchases. We will do all of this while being socially and environmentally responsible members of the business community.

We're aiming high. Our plans include dramatic play areas where children can try out toys, an event calendar that's chock full of fun events throughout the year and a 'bend-over-backwards' approach to customer service. Stay tuned. We'll update this page as we progress. Wanna keep abreast of developments with YoYoJoe's? Sign up to receive updates

Mitchell's 1953-2008

After 55 years of doing business in Delaware, I am profoundly sad to announce that Mitchell’s Trains, Toys and Hobbies will be closing.

Family owned and operated during our entire 55 years in business, Mitchell’s opened in July 3 of 1953, after John and Hanna Mitchell purchased Bennet’s 5¢ and 10¢ store in the Fairfax Shopping Center. This store, wedged in front of the Fairfax Bowling Alley, was more of a lane than a store. Mitchell’s operated in this small facility for two years before moving over to the site of the existing Walgreens in the Fairfax Shopping Center for the next 42 years. In 1997, Mitchell’s moved from the South portion of the Shopping Center to the North portion, downsizing from 15,000 square feet to 6,000 square feet and concentrating on it’s strengths – trains, toys and hobbies

The current owners, John & Hannah’s children, are Joe & Jack Mitchell and their sister Joan Hicks. All three of the owners were a part of the store from it’s beginnings until the end. All of the owners of the company have decided to retire and exit the retail business completely.

The Mitchell Family is quite proud that John and Hanna Mitchell’s dream lasted fifty five years. Through the years four generations and 23 members of the Mitchell family have worked at Mitchell’s. All four of John and Hannah’s children – Jack, Joan (Hicks), Joe and Judy (Bonisawski) Mitchell worked there. Nine of John and Hannah’s grandchildren worked there as well as five of their great grandchildren.

Most of Mitchell’s employees have been a part of the store for 20 years and longer. Bonnie Kincaid’s first day was August 23, 1960 – she is finishing her 48th year of employment at Mitchell’s. Manager Doug Arnold’s first day was August 22nd, 1973. Sales clerk Alice Lewis started at Mitchell’s on August 31st, 1977.