Hopscotch Blog

Simple Pleasures

Simple Pleasures

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I love the toy store in summer. The kids come in with a few dollars to spend and no adult to help them stretch it or suggest they save it for something better. Grownups just don't get it. It's the little stuff that's magic, and having it right now, with your own money that makes the summer sweeter. I have many suggestions for the kids with a few coins burning a hole through their cut offs. Take a few parachute guys on a trip to the second floor balcony of Hotel Oregon. You can let them float down onto pedestrians and drop into the pints of beer on the sidewalk tables. A handful of mini pigs to hide around your grandmothers house? Under her coffee cup, in the medicine chest. Marbles, by the each. Dime a piece. Need I say more? Old fashioned candy sticks, bazooka bubble gum, medium size jawbreakers, Taffy's, all for a quarter each. Balsa wood flyers, yo-yo's, and hacky sacks are also pretty special, but at $3 to $6 the kids really have to know what they want to blow their whole wad on one item. In the new fad category there are the Japanese Eraser's and those shaped rubber bands. Schleich animals. The kids pay with their own money to collect these great toys.
My favorite has always been bubbles. Magic, wand and all. I could spend (and have) entire afternoons blowing bubbles. The kids and I used to make bubble wands out of any piece of baling wire, slotted spoon or finger crocheted yarn loop. We experimented with home made recipes to support our by the bucket consumption. We took a road trip to Austin, my friend Sarah, our seven young children, and me. Sarah took us to a great toy store (Toy Joy) and introduced me to Pustefix. I was immediately convinced they lasted longer, and were more iridescent than other bubbles I had tried. These were the Best Bubbles Ever! With the zeal of the newly converted I went into the world to preach my truth. I'm still convinced that I see more shimmery rainbows in every Pustefix sphere, but you won't catch me in the store waxing poetic about it. It creeps the customers out.
Though I love the wand, rainbows, and watching them float out of sight, my favorite thing about bubbles is how they bring people together. At an outdoor concert, a picnic, or festival, break out the bubbles and people begin to smile. My children's great grandmother didn't have much energy by the time they came around, but she could sit in a chair and blow bubbles. Soon a dozen of her offspring would be dancing at her feet. That is magic.

 

Webkinz Extravaganza

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Webkinz is celebrating their fourth anniversary, and hopscotch has a full weekend of events planned out to celebrate with them! Beginning on May first while supplies last for $1 you can buy a special extravaganza Webkinz with any $15.00 or more purchase of Webkinz related items.

On Friday the 1st from 3:00 until 6:00, Saturday the 2nd from 12:00 until 5:00, and Sunday the 3rd from 12:00 until 5:00  we will host an official Extravaganza event day.

A $10.00 Webkinz Registration Fee will be Payable on Day of Activities.
With this fee, you will receive one FREE Webkinz, and participation in a day of fun filled events, games, and prizes.

We will have real-life size Webkinz games available for play!!
Jelly Bean Challenge
Wheel of WoW
Wishing Well
Picture Contest
Style Kinz Contest

StyleKinz Contest: All entries must be entered by 4:30 PM. You need not be present to win, we will photograph all entries as they arrive and judge them at the end of the weekend. Prizes will be announced Monday afternoon. Bring your best dressed Webkinz to enter this event.
Categories: Most Creative, Most Sporty, Most Glamorous, Best Homemade Costume, and Most Goofy.
An entrance prize will be given to everyone that participates.

Picture Contest: Drop off at the register on the day of activities.
Draw a picture at home of your favorite Webkinz.
It must be a handmade picture. No bigger than 8 x 11. Please include your name and phone number on the back of the drawing.
We will keep all pictures. If you would like your picture returned, please inform us at sign-in and we will have it available for pick up.  There will also be two winners a day, chosen by a random drawing, who will receive one gift certificate for a Webkinz of their choice.

We are so looking forward to seeing you here!!!

For more information please email us or give us a call 503-472-3702

 

Hopeful about our economy

I'm hopeful about our economy, and not in the way most people will say. I don't know enough about all of the things that are going down right now to venture a guess as to where we will all end up when the cards land where they will. (That much Sarah Palin and I do have in common) We might see a turn around after the election, as some say. We might see a decade or longer struggle to return to where we were just eight short years ago. At present though, I am seeing changes that I am hopeful will have a lasting effect on our lifestyle choices, our environment, and our concept of ourselves as Americans. So many people that I speak with are re-aligning their priorities. They are striving to return to the conscientious spending and consumption habits of their grandparents. You know the ones I'm referring to, the tin foil re-users, the menu planners, the canners. Customers are coming in and investing in one good open ended toy that will see their children through multiple stages of development, rather than pick up a few bells and whistles throw away's at the big box. I have sold more good old fashioned American made Beka blocks this last year than I have in all of hopscotch's years combined. Puppets, puzzles, "guys" as my boys called them, balls, dolls, marbles, and of course board games are moving out at a steady clip.

I am hearing the sentiment voiced over and over again that we need to fortify our local economy through keeping our dollars local. This comes not from my fellow shop keeps, but from our customers. There is finally a realization that maybe, just maybe the big boxes are really not the answer. At first, I was worried that the fear of less money would make people rush headlong to the "Lowest Price" sale signs of the big boxes, but the opposite has seemed to be true. People get it. If 3rd street were to fall, livability in McMinnville would be greatly reduced. The influx of new residents, new tax dollars, and new industries would be affected. Schools would suffer from the loss of tax revenue, and subsequent to all of these things housing prices would take a huge hit. If Wal Mart closed, would our property values be adversely affected at all? For the first time, I hear others speaking of these issues that have been near and dear to my heart since my parents made their living in their small shop in 3rd street. I don't feel so weird and backwards in my thought processes anymore. All these years I've been on the cutting edge of yesterday!

All of these new awareness's have the potential to have a huge impact on our environment as well. What if we all went down to Boersma's and invested in a $300 vacuum cleaner that we could have serviced rather than throwing several of the $50 big box vacuums into the landfill when they crash and burn? Ummm, maybe they wouldn't need a dump expansion... oh yeah, that's Portland's dead vacuums they need to expand for. But I digress. Frugality and cheapness are not the same thing. Frugality is a mindset wherein you keep track of your assets. You manage them. You place your money where it will give you the most return, where it will be serviceable as an asset in your home, and you will not have to replace it over and over and over again. Cheapness, is spending a little and getting less over and over and over until there is nothing but a big pile of broken plastic parts and McDonald's wrappers to reconcile at the end of the month. I see our population moving away from the cheap and toward the frugal, and that means a better quality of life for us all. Yes, I am very hopeful indeed.

 

Toy Store Owners Rule!!

astra_northwest_001.jpgI went into Portland last night to Green Frog Toys in the Pearl district in Portland. There I met up with some of the coolest people I know, and they all own toy stores. Pat Fielder who owns Green Frog was there of course. You may be more familiar with her other store, Childs Play that is up on Northwest 23rd. Also present was Eddie who owns Mudpuddles in Sherwood, and her manager Rebecca, Katey and Errol Noel from the Toy Factory in Corvallis, Mary Sissons from Kazoodles in Vancouver, Jen from G Willikers in Hood River, Sherri from Let's Play in Hillsboro, Celia from Frogs and Pollywogs in Albany, Merrick from Piccolo Mondo in Bethany village, and Grammy and Nona from Grammy and Nona's on NE Lombard in Portland. At other events we have entertained Bill from Sandcastle toys in Newport, Stacie from Leapin' Lizards in Bend, and Ty and Joan of Thinker Toys in Multnomah village.

We get together to talk toys, and to see how we are all faring with whatever seems to be at issue currently. This year the economy, last year toy recalls, always stinky diapers, and reviews on new toys. We always come away with new ideas to implement in our own stores. New practices that benefit us and our customers. It is through this practice that many of our stores feel so familiar to our customers when they are traveling from one town to another. Most of us are members of ASTRA which is the American Toys Specialty Retailers Association.

I am able to rely on the experience of the other toy store owners, and bring fresh insight and new ways of doing things in return. We help each other fill customer requests so that we don't need to order a minimum to make our people happy. We learn about new items on the market so we can have the best quality most exciting toys in our stores for our customers. Through my association with them, I have discovered Zoobies, Wheelie Bugs, Play foam, Quirkle, and so many more... it would be silly to list them. I guess my point is that I and my customers are so much better off for my knowing these folks. I can stand on their shoulders and speak with the confidence of having decades of experience behind me. Just wanted to mention the men and women behind the curtain because well, they rock.

 

Princess Grace....our store kitty

gracy_01.jpgIt's time to make an introduction to those of you who have not met our store cat. This is Gracie, or Princess Grace as she has come to be known. Gracie showed up at our home a few months before we moved into our new location and made it very clear that she was far superior to our other cat (she is) and could not abide residing with him. When we moved into our SE Baker St. location, we took Gracie with us. It is truly a testament to her marvelous personality that we haven't put her in a cardboard box in front of the shop. Having a store pet is interesting to say the least. Our first concern was customer response. I was worried that Gracie might scratch a child, but she has been quite good, going limp when caught, but generally managing to evade those who would handle her improperly. Allergies were also a concern, and we have lost one customer for this reason. Even with all of the potential people problems, the main issue with Gracie has been her tendency to defile the merchandise. Take the Melissa and Doug Panda she was napping on in this picture. Gracie thinks that bear is her mother. She will stand on her hind legs, put her front paws on the bears chest, and bury her face in the fur kneading and purring. We have back stock in the basement, so we have given up on trying to make her stop. Then, there was the Stephen Joseph Moses basket we had on display in the store window. A nice sunny store window, with a beautiful blanket and soft toy ...you guessed it her new favorite place to sleep. Rendered the baby bed unsaleable in a couple of minutes, positively wretched in a couple of weeks.

Princess Grace lovers her Melissa and Doug plush pandaWhen we arrive in the morning it's time to pick up latex balloons with needle thin holes in them, and decapitated rubber snakes...She's quite the big game hunter. She is just as proud of her virtual kill as any barn cat is of it's field mouse, winding her way around our legs and bragging. But don't get the idea that she is a woosie pussy. One night a neighborhood cat came in through a window and when we got there in the morning, there were tufts of long white fur all over that store. Turns out my cat isn't the only cat that Princess Grace feels superior to. She keeps the place warm while we are away, gives us a warm welcome when we open up in the morning, gives us attitude when her litter box is not cleaned, and gives us a lot of entertainment.

All in all, she's far more popular with our customers than any of us are. They are all so proud to exhibit their acquaintance with her, calling for her loudly as they come through the door. As if... She'll come out for a cat call....but call they do, and that is well worth putting up with a little kitty hair for.

 

A Toy Expert

toyexpert.jpgI find the concept of "Expert" an interesting one. I remember my first day at hopscotch when a customer asked me for a recommendation. She thought I was the expert. I was the Toy Store Owner, of course she thought I was an expert! I felt like such a phony showing her the things I liked, things my children liked, and explaining the why's as I perceived them. That first week I made many recommendations to customers. I recommended the Darda track because of my memories of my own son playing with the track at Kids at Heart in Portland, his desire brimming over, and the birthday on which he received it. Oh, the glorious day! I recommended Gertie balls for children who had developmental challenges and for two year olds. I did this because I had purchased one for my daughter as an impulse buy at Child's Play in Northwest Portland when she was about two. That ball was in and out of diaper bags, chewed on, washed off, inflated, deflated, and always easy for Zoe to catch, so I recommended it. But I was just a mother, not an expert, and felt like a complete poser! I didn't fully appreciate the value of my own accumulated knowledge. I had been a homeschooling mother of three for 12 years at that point. I had purchased countless birthday gifts, seen what worked, what broke, what the kids loved IN SPITE of it breaking... Balsa Wood Airplanes come to mind. Now, five years down the road I have made recommendations for THOUSANDS of gifts. I have read many books, gone to more trade shows than I would like, been mentored by many members of the American Specialty Toy Retailers Association (ASTRA) some of whom have decades of expereince in the toy industry. I have squeezed, pushed, pulled, and ridden some of the craziest most wonderful inventions in the known universe. I have written "body organ slime $2.50" in big letters and my best handwriting.

I am a Toy Expert. I'm afraid to date, the position does not come with a cape, but I do get to wear a great apron complete with scissors, sharpies, and a box knife. With that and my trusty price gun I am quite a well equipped superhero indeed. So now, I've amassed enough information that I think that I have a lot of useful things to say, about toys, children, and life in general. Welcome to the hopscotch blog.

 

 

ASTRA Marketplace

cowboy_kid2.gifWe're off to ASTRA Marketplace to find new toys and games for you. Be sure to check back later to see what great toys and games we found on our adventure. You can also sign up to recieve our newsletter to get news and updates to our in-store events and the new products we get in stock. Sign Up Now! >>>
 

Exciting News!

Leaves have been blowing in  all over the purple path at Hopscotch. Fall is here. Fall has always been my favorite time of the year. those last days of sunshine make me feel like I'm stealing from the coming winter. I savor them. Here at hopscotch fall brings even more excitement. It is the time of year known in the retail world as fourth quarter.  That means that all of our Chirstmas stuff starts rolling through the door on Tim's hand cart. (Tim, for those of you who aren't blessed enough to be on his route, is our wonderful UPS guy.) It makes me giddy to see the stock room crammed with stuff, and the shelves all packed out, but what I love the most is that I get to try out new lines that I've been eyeing all year. This year I am particularly excited to be bringing in a line of pre-school play vehicles called WOW (kind of like a European Fisher Price)  Incredible quality plastics, great detailing, and durable enough to take whatever your toddler can dish out. We are also expecting a large shipment from  Haba. Haba does a lot of everything better than anyone else does, but this shipment is very heavy in the baby category.  We have several fun new items in construction, including a killer snap together builder called BITZ....kind of like build your own plastic knights with their ships, dragons etc., and THEN you get to play with it. Once they are put together, the figures are sturdy and have articulated joints. There is so much more. New Groovy, new Calico Critters, new Klutz, new tin toys and Robots, new games. The rest you will just have to hop in and see for yourself. We are packed to the gills with more shipments arriving every day.

We are also very excited to tell you that in January,.....(drum roll please)......Hopscotch will be moving to a larger location on the corner of 1st and Baker. In this new location there is even a party room in the works! We will offer a variety of different birthday packages in many different themes for your partying enjoyment.  We will be able to recommence the YuGiOh and Pokemon tournaments as well as hosting Magic the Gathering, and family game nights. We are SOOOO excited about our new location!!! At the same time we are sad to be leaving 3rd street and especially the 500 block and Matt and Marilyn's building. We will miss seeing all of our neighbors everyday. We are making steady progress at the new store, and though it is a larger location, we are determined to maintain the cozy hopscotchiness that still gives me a warm feeling when I come through the back door in the morning. Please remember we are just moving TWO blocks off of 3rd! It is still easy walking distance (though we do have our own parking there). Well, hope to see you all in the next few months. Enjoy the leaves, the last few sunny days, and especailly the children in your lives.