TDmonthly Magazine!
July 2009 | Vol. VIII - No. 7


How Unusual Events Expand Your Presence

Thinking Outside the Toy Store Brings Rewards

“The thousands of people who attended seemed enthralled with the performance.” Renee Trinca, Schoenhut Piano Co. Inc.
Dogs in tutus, pianos strewn across gardens: If you want to stage events that attract attention, you may want to forget about toys for a moment.

Giant Robot, the famous chain of Japanese-anime-designer toy stores in California and New York, often sponsors events that appeal to a broader range of people than its average customer. Art shows are a natural extension for the shops, as Giant Robot’s toys are often designed by artists who work in more than one medium.

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In April, however, GR2 in Los Angeles staged its second “Free to a Good Home” adopt-a-pet event, teaming up with L.A. Animal Services as well as local artists, who contributed dog-related portraits and sculptures that were offered for sale among the designer tees, books and toys. TDmonthly Magazine was there and taped the event. (Watch videos to hear why Owner Eric Nakamura (above) and L.A. Manager Michelle Borok (below) feel such events are invaluable for their stores and community.)

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But storeowners aren’t the only creative buzz-makers. If you don’t have the time or resources to devise your own imaginative events, manufacturers might help. The Schoenhut Piano Co., Inc., for instance, staged “Kun” — a performance piece by composer Wendy Mae Chambers at the Vizcaya Museum in Miami featuring 64 black-white pairs of toy Baby Grand Pianos scattered throughout the gardens. (Listen to excerpts from the performances here.)

“The thousands of people who attended seemed enthralled with the performance. We are very pleased to have played a part in this spectacular event,” Renee Trinca, president of Schoenhut, told TDmonthly. (Read more about Renee’s impressions of the day.)

You can even be inspired by events that lie outside the retail domain altogether. Artist Luke Jerram has created a number of “Play Me, I’m Yours” projects in cities around the world, where second-hand pianos are decorated by artists and placed in public spaces with attached laminated songbooks to encourage spontaneous music making by passersby. The project has drawn acclaim in Sydney and Sao Palo. The latest version of “Play Me” debuted in London on June 23 and features 31 pianos, including one decorated with pound signs that’s chained outside the Bank of London. A piano tuner on a bicycle visits the instruments daily. Tarps are provided in case inclement weather strikes during the three-week event.

“Our projects are about increasing a sense of public spirit,” Colette Hiller, director of the project, told The Times in London. “We want people to treat the piano nicely, as they would a piano in their own home, to enjoy the songbooks with care and to cover the piano when it rains.”

While you might not want to be responsible for 30 used pianos in your community, you could arrange with your Chamber of Commerce to have game tables with board games placed in strategic public spaces to encourage kids of all ages to play. Craft tables could inspire local residents to create public art. Team up with public officials and local artists to literally expand the reach of your store.

To read about events that other toy-store owners have staged, read “Retailing Tips: Holding Events in Your Store.”

Alison MarekWriter's Bio: ALISON MAREK is an award-winning writer, director and cartoonist whose work has been published by Fairchild Publications and DC Comics (Piranha Press), broadcast on Showtime and other cable networks, and viewed worldwide in film festivals. See her short films and print work on Watch her nefarious villains in the web series Get inspired by her cartoons "Daily ARFFirmations to Unleash Your Inner Fido" at Phew! And then ...  Read more articles by this author


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