Monday, October 27, 2008

'Official' Grand Opening on Saturday!

Although we opened for business on Monday, our 'official' Grand Opening is this Saturday. Do we have anything planned? Darn tootin' we do! We've got:

• free collectible limited edition YoYo Joe's Duncan yo-yos for the first 75 kids at YoYo Joe's on Saturday. It's a Duncan Proyo and it features a custom YoYo Joe's imprint on each side of the yo-yo.

• Vincenza Carrieri-Russo, Miss Delaware USA will be at YoYo Joe's from 5-6 pm (courtesy of our friends at McNeil Designs for Brighter Minds - maker of the game 'You've Been Sentenced')

Plus, Rocky Bluewinkle will be at YoYo Joe's from 12-2 on Saturday. Meet the official Wilmington Blue Rocks mascot!

• Hourly prize drawings!

• Special Opening Day discounts on selected YoYo Joe's toys from Melissa & Doug, KEVA planks, WOW Toys, & Klutz Books

• Other awesome events we haven't even thought of yet!

It should be a swell day for us at YoYo Joe's as we mark the beginning of our store. We open at 10 AM and close on Saturday at 8 PM (although we're happy to hang around if people want to browse!)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

One Week Old!

Today marks our one week anniversary. While we have a long way to go to reach the amazing 55-year run of Mitchell's, I'm pretty jazzed about being open for one week. The customers have been gushing over the store. I know I'm biased and all, but we actually had a customer thank us for opening the other day. We certainly were proud of our store, but it's so satisfying to hear almost every customer compliment us on the look of the store, or the products, or the wickedly cool palm trees or the incredible pirate ship. Things really came together well.

Yesterday, we had our first event at the store - a book reading with local author Jamie Kleman. Jamie read her book twice to two different groups of people. We had no idea what to expect as far as a turnout, but were happy that the audience was well stocked for both readings. We expect to have a full schedule of events like this - from book readings to yo-yo club to craft activities and even an 'grown-ups' only shopping night that we'll call 'adult swim.'

Where DO those toys with lead in them end up?

Last year, millions of toys were recalled due to lead content in them. According to this article in The Health News Digest, only about six percent of recalled toys are returned, so where are the other 94% of potentially dangerous toys? And what do the toy manufacturers do with the recalled toys when they do get them back?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Book reading and signing on Saturday

Our first real event takes place this Saturday. Well, I guess the opening party qualifies as an event, but this is our first official unofficial event. Local author Jamie Kleman will be here at 11 am on Saturday to read from and sign her latest book, "It's Not Mean to be Green."

Special Bonus! A photographer from the Wilmington News Journal will be on hand to take a picture of Jamie reading at the store, so we need as many kids as possible to show up! Your kid could be discovered!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Unofficial opening day has come and gone

I honestly had no idea what to expect when pulling up to YoYo Joe's today. I didn't know if there would be a line waiting to get in or whether no one would come in at all. Well, like most things, the truth lie somewhere in the middle. To say we were busy today would be a stretch, but we had some sales, several of which were blog-readers (yay, blog reader people!) I finally realized that perhaps taking down the banner that advertised that we would open on November 1st might be a good idea, since several customers mentioned thinking we weren't open yet due to the date on the banners our front.

Carol was in today for the first time - Carol worked with me at Mitchell's for the past 20 years or so. She originally worked in Mitchell's in Ogletown (what now is ground zero for the MBNA/Bank of America complex) with her husband, Roger, who managed that store and the location where it moved in Community Plaza before moving up to our Fairfax store for the past dozen years or so. We're thrilled to have Carol with us at YoYo Joe's.

More pictures from the party to be posted soon!

Opening Day is Here!

OK, so tomorrow is our opening day. It's unofficial, but people who have been reading the blog will know all about it. I'm curious to see if we have much of a crowd - since word-of-mouth is really all we have going for us tomorrow. Our official opening day is not till November 1st - it gives us a chance to mess up all we can for a couple weeks before things really count. It's been such an exciting time, and tomorrow should be another cool day for YoYo Joe's.

Last of the party pics - Andre, Emily & Karen

Here's a photo of my wife, Emily (on the left), her co-worker Karen Todd and her boyfriend Andre Kerr. Andre is the artist who created the cannon in YoYo Joe's and the group of palm trees in the front of the store. He's very talented and we were very lucky to have him work for us.

Wendy & Graham on the Plasmacar

As mentioned in my post on the party, the Plasmacar was the unexpected hit of the party. Here's my sister Wendy riding one with Graham during the party.

Graham down the slide

Here's a good shot of my brother Tom with his son Graham - Graham is going down the slide on the pirate ship.

My sister Kris

Here's Kris in the game aisle at YoYo Joe's

Ethan rings em up!

Ethan handled the register duties for a bit, spelling former Mitchell's employee and former World Yo-Yo Champion Tyler Severence for a bit. That's me, by-the-way, behind Ethan holding my nephew Graham.

Party Pics - Tom Taylor

We got Tom Taylor to perform at our opening party - we met Tom years ago when he played at my brother Tom's annual July party. Tom was kind enough to agree to play our opening. It was a very weird feeling to have caterers, a singer and a bar at our store, but it was awesome!

Party pics - view from the ship

Here's a pic shot from the deck of the pirate ship - it gives you a good idea of the view from the ship out onto the store.

Party Pics - James at the wheel

Here's a shot of James - my future brother-in-law - at the wheel on the pirate ship. The ship's wheel is one of the details that Nate brought down this past week. He mounted it on the forward mast - it really turns!

Party Pics - Pirate Ric!

Here's a great view of the pirate ship with my brother-in-law Ric - who got into the mood and dressed as a pirate. He even climbed upon the rail of the ship, until he realized he probably shouldn't give kids any ideas. So, don't do this when you come to YoYo Joe's! Ric, by the way, owns The Frame Shoppe & Gallery in Talleyville along with my sister Wendy. That's our friend Ann Lake's nephew Dominic on the right.

Party Time!

Last night, we hosted our launch party at YoYo Joe's. It was our first official event. The whole point of the party was to introduce ourselves to Delaware - we invited a bunch of friends and family members and were thrilled with the turnout.

Let me backtrack a bit. We finished the pirate ship on Friday - it looks incredible. Nate and Kris (my brother-in-law - the shipbuilder and my sister) came down on Wednesday to finish the ship and also help us with other last minute details. My entire family was around - brother Tom, sister-in-law Elise - their son Graham, sister Wendy and brother-in-law Ric, my dad as well as Emily and Ethan, of course. Also joining us to help us finish off the details were Emily's sister Sara, her fiance James, my nephews Sam and Will and niece Katie all came into town on Friday. Sara and James put together Kettler tricycles and the Kettler rack. Sam & Will helped put together Plasmacars and other assorted stuff. Katie was a trooper and plugged stuff into the point-of-sale system. There were so many people at the store on Friday, I found myself coordinating tasks instead of actually doing anything. Our great friend Ann Lake not only brought us dinner from the Orient in Pennsville on Thursday, she hung around until the wee hours of the morning on Friday making sure everything was ready. And, the store looked fantastic.

Fast forward to Saturday - only a few details needed to be finished. Replace a couple dozen spotlights in the track lighting, hang fabric from the back of our wall near our palm tree grove and a couple other things. My brother Tom picked up the beer and wine for our party. One of our focus' at YoYo Joe's will be to buy local, so we got Twin Lakes Beer (despite their unwillingness to even call us back!) and Chadd's Ford Wine (again, despite their apparent lack of interest in calling us back). Luckily, the good folks at Kreston Wine & Spirits were happy to help us with our local selections. The caterers showed up at 3 or so (Toscana), and the guests started showing up 4:30 or so.

People kept arriving, and at our announced starting time of 5 pm, we had a nice crowd already. Guests raved at the store - maybe it was just them being polite, but I don't think so. People kept showing up. We invited all the employees from Mitchell's and many of them showed up. At the peak of the party, the store was packed and it was nuts. The unexpected hit of the party were the Plasmacars - we had one car out for kids to try, but soon found all of them were off the rack and kids were all over the store in them. I have to say, I have seen Plasmacars for years, but only when I actually got in one to try it did I realize how cool they really are (they can take riders up to 220 lbs!). We even sold a couple of them!

I thought it was funny when talking to one person at the party - I had neglected to mention to her about the pirate ship in the store, so I asked her if she had seen the pirate ship. She said, "pirate ship?," and I just said, "Oh, I guess I forgot to mention our pirate ship" and pointed to it. She was obviously shocked to see such a structure in a toy store.

One other moment that stuck out was when I was talking to my college roommate, Dale and my nephew Kyle came up. I realized that this was the first time all three of us had been together since we all went to an Orioles game in the mid-nineties. It didn't seem like it had been a dozen years since we went to that game.

It was a thrilling night and it went by way too fast. Before the party, I told Emily that I suspected it would be like our wedding reception - that we would hardly be able to talk to many of our guests, and miss some entirely. My suspicions were correct, I was sad that many of our guests I hardly had time to talk to anyone.

I was very thankful that Wendy decided that she would be the official party photographer and she shot lots of pictures. I will post some of them in subsequent posts...

What a night!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Progress - video tour pt 2

Here's another little video tour I shot earlier tonight. Check it against the last video to see how far we've come!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

T-minus 4 days...

It's 4 am, and Emily and I are both at YoYo Joe's. Emily's stocking shelves, and I'm adding stuff to the infernal POS system. Things are moving fast now. Kris and Nate arrived yesterday morning at 11 and worked on the pirate ship all day, adding details like a handrail up the steps, a yardarm, a sail and more. Also, the palm trees arrived tonight - thanks to Andre Kerr, our artist. They look awesome, and are HUGE. Seriously now, come on, we've put in custom made palm trees, a cannon and a pirate ship. Are we nuts?


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

T-Minus five days...

...and counting to our 'unofficial' opening. Our 'official' opening remains November 1st, but we're doing everything we can to be in final shape by Monday....

Yikes! Looking around the back room, there's stacks of merchandise to get onto the sales floor. There's stacks of merchandise on the sales floor too. Gee, we've got a lot of merchandise, and more keeps arriving each day! Today, I went on a trip to Philly to get more shelving while Emily was at the store. Of course, 80 boxes showed up today between UPS and, the balance of the metal shelving arrived from the powder coaters...poor Emily!

Have I mentioned that my dad (YoYo Joe Sr) has marked a giant chunk of our merchandise? He's spent hours here marking stuff with official YoYo Joe's price labels. You say, "hmm...didn't you say, Joe, that you're using a Point Of Sale system?." How detail-oriented of you to remember...that's right, we're using a POS, but there's nothing I hate more than shopping somewhere and there's no label on the package and there's no price sticker near the item, so we're marking everything. (OK, there's actually sooo much stuff I hate more than that, but you know what I mean)

Kris and Nate (the shipbuilder) show up tomorrow to fit out the rest of the pirate ship. Yep, rest of the pirate ship. Including a ship's wheel, a yardarm, a sail and more...

Oh, and thanks to my ludicrously late hours here at YoYo Joe's - I missed the entire game four of the National League Championship Series last night. I only missed what many people are calling one of the greatest games in Phillies history. Oh well, thank God for internet video.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Shoe Boat

Our friend John Lynch stopped by today while his son, Chris, was swimming at the Y - which you can see from the back door of our store. While in the store, he said the pirate ship reminded him of the Shoe Boat in the Concord Mall.

Which is kinda cool, cause that WAS the inspiration for our pirate ship. Does anyone remember the boat that was in The Shoe Boat? I remember my mom taking us up to the Concord Mall to get shoes, and we'd get excited because they had this little tug boat or something in it. It had a slide, and, if my recollections are correct, it was pretty small - only one kid or so at a time could fit on it. Remembering that a bit back was what made me think of putting a pirate ship in Mitchell's. I was thinking on a similar scale - something small - a draw to bring kids in the store. Obviously, it never happened at Mitchell's, but I kept that idea on my mind while we went through the process of getting our own store up and running. We plopped it in the business plan and pitched it to our advisors at the Delaware Small Business Development Center and when we met with the bank. Luckily, the ship stayed in the plan.

Ha...the Shoe Boat. I wonder what happened to it?

Word to your moms, I came to drop bombs...

House of Pain at 1:11 A.M. is oddly appropriate. Today more more of the same - stocking in the store, adding to the POS. Trying to clean out the back room - bringing it all out on the sales floor. More and more people peek their heads in when we have the doors open to see what's going on. Several families peeked in today with their kids - who seemed hard to convince that we were not open yet. One little girl protested, "but there's people in there!"

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Playmobil - check.

A bit later on, we set up the Playmobil department. It's really coming together!

Arts & Crafts - check.

Emily spent a lot of time tonight setting up the Arts & Crafts department. This is just one of the two sides of the aisles.

Racks of shelves

Here is a picture I shot yesterday with my cell phone at the powder coaters. These are the racks as they emerged from the powder coating process. The shelves hang from the racks in as they are being powder coated and when they come out, they're real hot. You could feel the heat emanating from them. We got the T-sections coated in white and the shelves coated in a textured blue. After they cooled, we packed them in our rental truck and headed up to YoYo Joe's, where my dad, Ric, Wendy, Ethan and Emily all helped unload them. It took a while, but we had a good assembly line going.

We immediately set them up, below is a picture that shows the before and after of the shelving. They used to be a generic ivory color. (We used to joke that Mitchell's painted everything 'Mission Ivory'). They look great! We're very excited about them.

Several more people poked their heads in today - we had a visit by a couple children who seemed quite impressed with the pirate ship, plus a bunch of Ric's relatives stopped by. T-minus 8 days!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

It's Saturday night, do you know where your toy store owner is?

He's right here. Sitting in front of the computer, entering wicked cool pirate hats into the point-of-sale system. And drinking a beer (Dogfish Head Festina Peche - eh...tastes like a wine cooler). And watching the U of D Sluggish Blue Hens fumble away a game on Game Cast. Less than nine days till the unofficial opening! Yikes! Emily is out on the sales floor merchandising the arts & crafts area. Ethan is sleeping over at his buddies house.

Our sales floor has come a long way, but it's hard to believe that we're just over a week away from opening. We've got so much to do! Here's some good news, YoYo Joe's has yo-yos! We got our shipments from Duncan and YoYoJam - and some really cool stuff is on it's way from YoYo Factory in Arizona.

Merchandise is piled up in the back room - we're slowly easing it onto the sales floor. I picked up the powder coated fixtures yesterday in Middletown, they look awesome! We set them up late last night.

Also, we've had more than one "fan of the blog" stop by and say hi. To say that I was shocked that anyone besides our families was following the blog would be putting it mildly! Our short conversation yesterday with Rand and Louise made our day!

More pics later....must....enter....merchandise....

Friday, October 10, 2008

Now this is cool...

I just found this website today. It's from an organization called Jumpstart. Their mission is to highlight the importance of early education. The way they do it is to organize mass readings on the same day around the country of the same book. They attempt to break a world record to get more publicity for early education. Sounds pretty cool, right? Unfortunately, I found this site a couple days too late, as the readings took place on October 2nd.

But, there's one section that's really cool - it features guest readings of this year's book - Corduroy by Don Freeman. The guest readers include, among others, LeVar Burton, Emmylou Harris, the NFL's James Thrash and our favorite early book author Mo Willems. You can read the book online and have the guest reader read along with you. Click here to go to Jumpstart's "Look Who's Reading" page.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

And now for something completely different..

on a far less depressing note than the last post, here's a peek at a display that Emily set up a couple days ago. It's a three-tiered display that Emily picked out. She merchandised it with a couple of the cool brands that will be new to YoYo Joe's from people who shopped at Mitchell's. It's a French toy company called 'Boikido.' (They're the company that made the ride-on cat I posted about a while back.) It looks great and it will greet you as you enter the store - starting October 20th!
The past couple of days have seen boxes pouring into YoYo Joe's. The past two days alone have seen nearly 150 boxes of product show up at our store. It doesn't seem so long ago that I was posting each company as it arrived. Now, I'm happy if I can sort the boxes into recognizable lumps in a field of cardboard. And the funny thing is, I have no this stock is waaaay too much for our space, way too little, or just right.
Tomorrow should go a long way to helping us determine that, as we rent a truck to go down to pick up the fixtures we dropped off weeks ago to be powder coated. Once we have those, we should be able to much better lay out our store.
Have I mentioned that the pirate ship is flippin' awesome? Yes? Oh....ok...

The times, they are a changin'

Well, despite all the hoopla about YoYo Joe's, I still work at my family's store, Mitchell's. And today is, more-or-less, my last day. Mitchell's was originally scheduled to close tomorrow, although I think that the owners are going to extend that a bit to allow for us to sell as much of our remaining stock as possible.
The past several weeks have been a roller coaster ride of emotions for me. I worked at Mitchell's on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. I was at YoYo Joe's Monday, Wednesday, Friday & Sunday (and after the store closed on the other days). It was very hard to go from the shrinking stock at Mitchell's to the burgeoning stock at YoYo Joe's. The sad, depressing atmosphere at Mitchell's to the hopeful and exciting atmosphere at YoYo Joe's. Going from cleaning out my family's 55-year-old business to frantically trying to build up my own has been difficult on many levels. Although I'm very excited about starting my own store, deep in my heart I wish I didn't have to.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


No, that's not what it stands for. I know what you're thinking.

It stands for Point of Sale. If you've been shopping at Mitchell's, you'd notice that it's not something we've had there. This won't be the case for YoYo Joe's. We have a Point of Sale system and I spent much of tonight fooling around with it. I mean, it's not like opening day is less than two weeks away, right? No, wait, it is. Yikes!

We now have hundreds of items on our Point of Sale system. Now all I need is to enter the thousands more items to get the system up to date.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Merch on the floor...

So, Emily hung around late last night to merchandise the plush department. (Plush is the toy industry of referring to stuffed animals - I guess guys in suits don't like to talk about 'stuffed animals' when they could be talking about 'plush'.) I thought she did a great job! (And not just because she was merchandising while I was sleeping). Notice the adirondack chairs, they're for hanging around and checking out our books. Pretty snazzy, huh? Much more stuff is on it's way, so stay tuned.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Moving along

Over the weekend, we marked lots and lots and lots of toys. On Saturday, our good pal Ann Lake from ONLC was at the store for a ludicrous amount of time. She hung around until we packed it in around 1 am. Emily and Ann marked our huge Melissa & Doug order. Today, we got through most of what was left, thanks to Emily's sister Angie, our niece Megan and her friend who stopped by for a couple hours. They made quick work of the portion of Learning Curve order that showed up on Friday.

The painters finished on Friday. Kris and Nate left yesterday morning. Yes, that means the pirate ship is done. Well, almost done. We still have some special elements to add to it. Right now, the ship is being run by Captain Underpants (that's him in the picture), who sits high above the ship with a pirate hat, a sword and an earring.

We've begin setting up some of the fixtures. The Thomas the Tank Engine fixtures are set up now, as are a row of Ikea shelving in the front. Emily, as we speak, is merchandising the plush/book department at the front of the store.

More pix soon!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Cold Turkey!

That's it! No more pirate ship updates. I'm done, I'm outta here (just like Shane Victorino's grand salami last night).

We've decided that, instead of spoiling the surprise and posting lots of pics of the pirate ship ahead of time, we'd make everyone wait until our (shhhhh) unofficial opening day of October 20th. The official-like opening day is November 1st, but that's for the people who don't read the blog. The 'Anti-Blog-Ites.' You know the type...anyhoo, look for more updates on the status of the store, but look at those pictures long and hard, cause until October 20th, that's all you have to work with. And, in my very biased opinion, it's flippin' awesome.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

And even more pirate ship stuff

You know, I've led a pretty bung-less life. Seriously, it never even crossed my mind to fill in the holes left by screws with bungs, but now it seems crazy to leave empty holes in wood. The pirate ship has, literally, hundreds of bungs filling the screw holes. They add character to the ship. They look awesome.

Today's progress includes the finalizing of the planking and the fitting of the cap on the bow of the ship. Yes, there's a boat term for this cap, but I can't recall it. I know...

Here's a couple pix - one of Nate routing this cap and one of the side profile of the ship. Meanwhile, Krissy was filling the holes and Ric was staining the ship. It's gonna be a dark brown.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Short Pirate Ship video...

What's that? You're already sick of the pirate ship? Tough cookies, mister, you're gonna read more about it and you're gonna like it! Here's a short video shot yesterday of the pirate ship and our own lifesize Playmobil pirate dude.

More Pirate Ship stuff

The pirate ship is progressing nicely, as the planking of the sides of the boat is going on. Nate and Krissy are hard at work on the ship. Me, I'm goofing off. I'm ordering stuff. I'm quite sick of ordering stuff, yet I must strive on. Poor me. Here's a couple pix of Nate hard at work and me holding a personal message to one of our fans up in New England. Go Anaheim!