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BOING Toy Store is in Business!

Randal Engelmann & Erik Gould

We are Randal Engelmann and Erik Gould, partners in providing exceptional customer service...

We are Randal Engelmann and Erik Gould, partners in providing exceptional customer service...

Apr 24 9 minutes read

Kim Mitchell, the owner of Boing Toy Store share how they are adapting their business to respond to both demand for their products, how to be safe, and most of all, a big thank you for the support of the local community!! 


Randal:
Hi, welcome back to Stay Focused. We're here with Ken Mitchell on our continuing series of what's happening in our business district regarding the COVID-19 crisis. So, welcome Kim Mitchell, owner of Boing! in Jamaica Plain.

Kim:
Yeah, so I am the owner of Boing! Toy Shop, which is right here on Centre Street. I have been the owner here for nine years, community member for... We were counting that up the other day, about 25 years as well. So, I am a JP through and through.

Randal:
I love your tagline on your window, "Building community one toy at a time." And this whole series is really about us chatting with business owners and the effects of what's happening with the coronavirus and the small businesses and what's been happening and really talking a little bit about the challenges you face, you know?

Kim:
Challenges? What challenges, Randal? They're all opportunities, and obviously we are dealing with what so many small business owners are. I mean, March 17th we had to close our doors to the public. That obviously required a little bit of thought on, how do we move forward? What does that look like? And after a couple of days of thinking, "All right, what do I do now? Do I wait this out, or do I just kind of keep things going?" I started focusing on some online sales and local deliveries.

Randal:
So, then that pivot that you talking about really did strengthen your online sales platform?

Kim:
I have one of my employees who is working from home, is spending 100% of her time getting new items up on my website, that I've put 400 new items up on my website. It's just, Deva is at home and all day long just putting items up on my website, which in the long run... We're not [inaudible 00:02:00] opportunities part of the interview yet. But in the long run that's going to serve me well because I will have those items up there going forward.

Randal:
So, one of the things that we discussed in chatting about this interview today before we started recording was you talking about doing some deliveries and really being in that arena. Tell me a little bit more about that.

Kim:
We have had to learn, and we've gotten better. I am also shipping and mailing things. I have become quite an expert in spotting the right size box for the items that we're shipping. These are some skills that I did not necessarily anticipate having to learn, but the whole process has been one part tiring and one part exhilarating in a way. I get home at the end of the day, and it's tiring because we're working processes in different ways and having to learn. But it's also kind of like, "Hey this is kind of cool. We're figuring this out," you know? And we've gotten better at it. I mean, the first week we were probably doing eight to 10 deliveries a day, and that felt like a lot. Ellery had, I think, 25 yesterday, and we were like, "Eh, we have 25."

Randal:
Have you discovered the wonderful thing about uploading a spreadsheet into Google maps, and it will map it out for you and just, off you go?

Kim:
So, no. I haven't, but we should talk offline about actually uploading an Excel spreadsheet.

Randal:
There's my takeaway for you. It's really interesting to hear you talking about learning and trying new things. What would you say is your big positive outcome of all of these changes?

Kim:
I mean, my web presence will be much stronger for sure, and in certain ways, maybe it always should have been. I mean, I know there's a lot of just staff pride between... It's mostly been David, Ellery, and I. I mean, we're proud of ourselves. Every day we're like, "We're doing this," and we're realizing that there is demand. I mean, I feel lucky that I'm selling toys. There's a lot of families in Jamaica Plain and the neighboring area who are home and looking for things to do. So, I'm thankful for that and lucky for that.

Randal:
What surprised you? What surprised you as part of this process?

Kim:
I, of course, wasn't really sure if the demand for the local deliveries would stay. I wasn't sure. I actually said to my staff, I said, "You know what? After Easter, everyone could just kind of hunker down and just say we're just going to ride this thing out." I have had a tremendous amount of support from the local community who I do think value small businesses, and they're coming to me first because they want to help our local businesses as much as they can. So, that's not really a surprise because I know how great our community is. So, it doesn't surprise me.

Randal:
But it's nice to have it reaffirmed during a crisis.

Kim:
Yeah. Yeah.

Randal:
I think people's real personality comes out or their real values come out when you're faced with a crisis. It's easy to say you support the community when things are good.

Kim:
Yeah. No, and you're right. Everyone's in it together and doing the best they can.

Randal:
Yeah. One of the things that in previous conversations that you and I have also had, you talked about moving forward. Where do we go from here? It's not just going to snap back, everything just open up again. I thought you really had a really great point about talking about safety and what's safe, and I just thought I'd open that up for you to chat about that, to talk about the safety measures that you are taking and your staff is taking to ensure that deliveries happen in a way that's safe for the clients as well.

Kim:
I know there's been a lot of talk about essential versus non-essential. I also think we need to be having a conversation about safe versus not safe. I would love to see some sort of certification or almost an application process where I could say, "Are you conducting yourself in a safe way?" Not are you essential or these tiering of, "This is essential. This is somewhat essential. This is not at all essential." Because these are people's livelihoods, you know? If you get put into some sort of bucket of like, "Yeah, you don't need to open for a long time." I mean, these are people's lives. I really think the more important thing is to say, "Can you conduct yourself in a safe way?" You know? So I think it really should be safety first, essential second.

Randal:
Right, so here we have safety first, and this is how it's done. This is how we ensure that our clients don't get sick from something you pass along. So, using a similar kind of a model, that's not complicated. Cleanliness isn't complicated and making sure that people are safe. I'd also like to ask you, Kim, just kind of wrap up a little bit here. Thanks for your thoughts on that because I thought that was really some good insight. But what would you like to share with the community?

Kim:
First and foremost, I really do want to thank people for thinking of us first, giving us the opportunity to make these local deliveries, having somewhat of a sense of humor about it at times that we are forgetting to flip over that piece of paper to see the other three items. Yeah, I mean, I am so heartened by the compassion and care that we have shown each other, and I really do feel like we can come out of the backside of this. Through obviously an incredibly challenging process I've seen a lot of good, so I'm [inaudible 00:08:24] of that.

Randal:
Awesome. Yeah. Yeah, it's great to be part of such a strong and supportive community that kind of comes up for the small businesses. People really are coming out when we all need them. So, just as a reminder, Boing! store door might be closed, but they are certainly available online. And, of course, Kim, we have to ask you, where are they going to find you online?

Kim:
They are going to find me boingtoys.com.

Randal:
All right. All right. So, schedule your deliveries though, hopefully it doesn't end up on the backside of the sheet, and look forward to seeing you getting to that day when we open our doors again. So, thanks, Kim, for joining me today, and until next time stay tuned, stay healthy, and stay focused. 


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