Headin’ Back To School
Aug 07, 2012
Remember that "first day of school feeling"? You were looking sharp in your brand new outfit, sporting the coolest lunchbox that K-Mart had, and filled with that weird mix of excitement, dread, and no sense at all just how long this grade would seem by the time June rolled around. The weather was still good, the days were still long, and it would be at least a few weeks before you had too much homework. Funny how the smell of newly sharpened #2 pencils can throw you back forty years or so.
Seems to me the feeling isn't all that different these days. I lament the end of summer because it's such a great time to spend with my kids, get just a little extra sleep in the morning, and put the hustle and bustle aside in favor of sunshine and relaxation. On the other hand, I'm excited to see how they take to new challenges in the classroom and to watch them conquer new opportunities on the playing field, the stage, or wherever they choose to shine. There is something gratifying about seeing them walk the same path I did, and hopefully sharing some lessons learned that ultimately help them be just a little more successful at navigating the adventure than I was.
It's been a long time since I went back-to-school, but I guess late August will always feel the same...
A Bittersweet Tale
Jul 31, 2012
I just read about Gray's General Store, the family-owned business in Rhode Island that closed it's doors this week after 224 years in business. That's not a typo...two-hundred-twenty-four years in business. This story made me proud and excited and sad all at once. Proud to be a business owner and entrepreneur and know that we live in a world where honest, hard-working people who insist on doing things the right way can sustain a business through good times and bad, and weather every conceivable storm, in the case of Gray's, since just a few years after the Revolutionary War. Excited because Brilliant Sky Toys & Books is not a family-owned business, it's sixteen family-owned businesses, all banded together with a common goal to be the kind of business that deserves respect and admiration and can continue to bring our message of creating a better world through play to future generations. Sad, or course, because as business owners and human beings it is always sad to lose a compatriot, especially one that has been one of "us" since long before we were ourselves. Here's a salute to Gray's and all that they have stood for since 1788...and to those of us who continue to blaze that trail upon which our country was built.
The Lost Virtue?
May 23, 2012
Not too long ago a customer came into our store looking for model cars. We're talking good old-fashioned "meticulously-paint-and-glue-together-a-zillion-tiny-pieces" kind of models - like you could have bought almost any place your mom and dad dragged you back in the '70's. Any dime store in town had a whole shelf full of muscle cars, antiques, stock cars...you name it. We lamented for a bit about the fact that something that was such an integral part of our childhood has largely disappeard, and had the obligatory conversation about "the old days". That's pretty much required after you hit 40...I have to remind my kids often about how I remember when we got our first microwave, or that the "remote" for the cable was attached to the TV with a wire...
Anyway, after ruminating on it for ahwhile, what bothered me more than the fact that models have fallen out of favor is the reason why. I believe it's a generational trend towards a lack of patience. I'll bet there's a really cool app available where you can build and customize a "model" car on your phone or tablet...and you can probably build ten variations in five minutes (and probably get bored in six). Technology is great, but it's taught many of our young people that instant gratification is the only kind. They've been robbed (through no fault of their own) of the satisfaction of getting that package in the mail that you ordered off the back of the comic book and patienty waited 4-6 weeks for delivery to receive, or leafing through the World Book Encyclopedia to find an answer to a burning question, or scrawling out a book report with paper and pencil, or building a sweet model '57 Chevy over the course of several evenings. And frankly, I think the kind of patience it takes to do these things is an awfully important life skill that I'd like my kids to have.
I don't know the answer, but I know this. Every once in awhile, I'm going to make my kids do things "the old fashioned way". I might even unplug the microwave when I get home...
Schools Out…Have Fun Learning!
May 16, 2012
As another school year draws to a close, I'm reminded of a question we hear often in our stores.
"How do I keep my child learning over the summer?"
The answer is simpler than you think. In fact, I can answer in one word. Play. That's really all there is to it. The younger your child is, the more learning is inherent in their typical patterns of play. Want to teach some basic physics? Stack some blocks as high as you can, or go fly a kite. Math skills? Play Monopoly and have your child be the banker. Reading? Pick up some conversation cards like Chat Pack and take turns asking the questions. Economics? Lemonade stand. Earth science? Catch some bugs...
Get the idea? Learning over the summer is as easy as finding something fun to do. Fun makes learning serendipitous - and that's when the best learning takes place.
Enjoy your summer!
What’s ‘Appening at Brilliant Sky
Mar 01, 2011
Keeping up with technology is never easy. It blew my mind in 6th grade when I learned how to make my name display over and over on a computer screen. Now, just a few short years (well, thirty plus a few) later, we're introducing something revolutionary to the toy industry. The Brilliant Sky Toys & Books iPhone App is live and ready to download. Not only is this the first app in the specialty toy industry, it also incorporates Brilliant Savings Technology (BST). BST provides real value to our customers by providing "on-phone" coupons that can be redeemed at any of our stores by simply showing your phone to the sales associate to redeem your discount.& No searching through the paper and cutting out coupons, or even navigating a crazy coupon website - this discount is delivered right to your phone (the one thing you're never without, right?). It's really pretty amazing...and way more useful than displaying your name 200 times on a computer screen.
Find maps to our stores, add Brilliant Sky events directly to your calendar, and get Brilliant Savings Technology zapped right to your phone...what'll they think of next? Download the Brilliant Sky Toys & Books App today in the App Store or iTunes.
Yeah, keeping up with technology is never easy - but we're doing it anyway.
Letter From A Friend
Feb 17, 2011
I received a letter in the mail today from a young lady in Texas that I thought was worth sharing. Here it is verbatim:
"Hi, I'm 12 years old and I come in your store a lot in Texas. I love all your toys. You guys are just so great. You always bring a smile to my face and always brighten my day. When somebody walks through that door you guys are like 'how may I help you, you might like this' and it's just very generous. I hope all of you have a great day."
In case it's not obvious, this is why we do what we do.
An Education on Education
Feb 01, 2011
"I'm looking for something educational."
It's something we hear almost every day in our stores, and the answer is sometimes surprising to our customers. The fact is that almost everything on our shelves is educational.
How can that be? It is well established that play patterns are one of the primary ways in which children learn. From simple stacking and sorting activities for a toddler to complex thought processes for a teen, play is a gateway to development for a child of any age When you expand the definition of "education" to include more than than just the 3 R's, and throw in some of life's most important skills like patience, tenacity, cultural sensitivity, critical thinking, visual acuity, logic, hand/eye coordination, and many more, it's easy to see how play of almost any kind is an essential element to a child's education.
My favorite example of this is chess. I get some blank stares when I recommend chess as an educational game, but stop and think about how chess is played. Learning the moves is one thing, but to be successful at chess you have to be able to think more than one move at a time. You have to weigh the pros and cons of each move, anticipate your opponent's reaction, consider the sacrifice of one piece to capture another, and quickly do the "what if" analysis in your head - all based on the visual queues that the board provides. It sounds a lot like problem solving, doesn't it? Sort of like a negotiation? How many skills can we point to that are more important than the ability to plan and react to events in life with preparation and foresight?
Broaden your definition of educational play, and you'll enjoy a greater variety of enriching play experiences with your child.
Music City Style
Aug 15, 2010
Just returned from the grand opening of our fantastic new Brilliant Sky Toys & Books store in Brentwood, TN! There is nothing greater than the excitement and electricity that surrounds a grand opening. Congratulations to Bill, Teresa, and their fantastic staff...what a wonderful job they all did...and congratulations to the residents of Middle Tennessee who can now find their way to play! Next stop on the Grand Opening Tour - Wilmington, NC!
Vapur Bottle Makes The List…
Aug 11, 2010
It's always an exciting day when something new makes my list of the coolest things in the history of the world. Vapur Bottle, your time has arrived.
One of the significant shifts I've seen in our culture over the last twenty years is that we seem increasingly obliged to carry ever more creatively designed containers of water, and this revolutionary product answers that call like no other. The Vapur Bottle is durable, safe, practical, and ecologically responsible. When filled, it stands up like any good water bottle should. When empty, it can be rolled or folded and will easily fit in a purse, pocket, lunch box, or equipment bag. It's washable and freezeable, and it can even be lableled and clipped to a backpack. Oh, and one other thing...if it gets left behind (it's been known to happen), you're only out about nine bucks - and you can pick up another one at most Brilliant Sky stores.
Could Kermit Be Wrong?
Jul 25, 2010
It's hard to go anywhere these days without being inundated with with the concept of "going green". Virtually every industry has been touched by this groundswell, and the toy industry is no different...and we're a better industry as a result. Still, the more I think about it, being green is not about toys made from recycled milk cartons and bamboo. It's not about packaging with soy-based dyes, either. In the end, it's really all about the whole idea of play itself. Indulge me here...
Let's say you have a choice of playing a family board game or going to a movie. Which is the "greenest" alternative? You can drive to the theater (using gasoline and creating emissions), spend $40-$50 (or more) on tickets and food in a variety of packages (all of which are headed for a landfill), and watch the movie in a theater that is using who knows how much electricity to power a multitude of lights, machines, and equipment. On the other hand, you could stay home and play a board game that you bought for $25 five years ago, pop some popcorn on the stove - and as a bonus - spend the time in meaningful conversation with your family. The fact is, by their very nature toys and games are non-disposable, unplugged, and provide hundreds (if not thousands) of hours of constructive play. The answer is clear and it proves once and for all that despite Kermit's claims, it really is that easy being green.
Disclaimer: I like movies. I like candy in disposable packages. I'm not suggesting we stop going to the movies...but what if we all traded just one movie night for a game night?
Jul 23, 2010
Ever see what regular nail polish does to a styrofoam plate? It ain't pretty. In this world of ecological responsibility and worrying about our carbon footprints, let's extend that to mean beautifying fingers and toes with something that's safe and healthy. Fingernails are porous, so shouldn't we be careful about what we're putting on them? Piggy Paint is the fantastic new (and wildly popular) non-toxic, non-volatile, non-melt-a-styrofoam-plate nail polish (and remover) that is safe for any age - and that means you too, mom. More colors than you can shake a stick at, and always "natural as mud". Check it out!
The Cardboard Box Effect
Jul 20, 2010
If you've been around many middle school kids this year, you've no doubt seen lots of arms graced with a collection of shaped rubber bands. The number of these highly affordable yet utterly enchanting little bands that have crossed retail counters in the last six months is staggering. And with almost every sale, I hear a parent say "who would have thought something so simple could cause such excitement? They're just rubber bands!" And therein lies the beauty...
There is nothing revolutionary about a rubber band (at least not since the original one was invented), and these "new" rubber bands don't do anything unusual. Put one on the table and see what it does. Nothing, right? These bands are nothing at all until they capture the imagination of a child. From searching for the newest styles, to inventing new color combinations to wear, to figuring out how many guitars equal one mermaid in a lunch room barter session, it is the engaged mind of a child that makes it all "work". Only the passion and imagination of millions of children can turn a loop of silicone into a phenomenon. And that's exactly how it should be.
It's as classic as the tale of a child who gets a gift and only wants to play with the box. They don't play with the box because it's a box, they play with it because of everything it becomes once they turn their imagination loose. At their very core, children need to be engaged. They need playthings that encourage them - even force them - to do something. These are the toys they'll turn to over and over, and it's this very "doing something" that holds the promise of education, enrichment, and enlightenment. So, as simple and inexpensive and "low-tech" as they may be, perhaps at least for now a rubber band is more than just a rubber band...
Keeping It Weird
Jun 26, 2010
You can't go far in Austin, TX without hearing the slogan "Keep Austin Weird". It's a mantra they live by, to a tremendous result. Few towns can compare to the uniqueness and hometown loyalty that you'll experience in Austin. So, as we prepared to open a Brilliant Sky Toys & Books in Westlake, I had to look inward and ask myself, "are we weird enough"? It's a high standard to live up to, but this franchise toy store never backs down from a challenge! After some soul-searching, I realized that we are weird. It's weird to find a store where people of all ages - from toddlers to teens to seniors - are equally enchanted and captivated. It's weird to find a place that has so much cool stuff. It's weird to get customer service so willingly, completely, and expertly rendered every time you visit. Yup, we're definitely weird. We're doing our part, Austin!
That New Store Experience
Sep 01, 2009
There are few things in my world more exciting than the grand opening of a new Brilliant Sky Toys & Books franchise toy store. The passion of the store owners, the wide-eyed wonder of the first customers, even that "new-store smell" adds to the fun and excitement of seeing a new store come to life after months of hard work and planning. The emotional stake that our owners have is not only gratifying, it's the key to their success - and ours. This was never more evident than our grand opening in Highland Village, TX. This beautiful 3,750 square foot store is everything that a Brilliant Sky store should be..immaculate, interactive and a sensory experience unlike any other specialty toy store. Congratulations to everyone in the Highland Village and Flower Mound, TX area...Brilliant Sky is here to proudly serve you!