Monday, April 2, 2018

He was a Toys R Us Kid

A 25 year old entrepreneur named Charles Lazarus opened a baby supply store named Children's Supermart back in 1948. He did it to fill a growing demand during the baby boom after the end of World War II. That same store became the Toys R Us chain and after surviving for 70 years, went bankrupt last month. Lazarus died one week later. 

We've all gotten used to store closings in the era of Amazon but the death of Toys R Us seems to pull at the heart strings more than most. It was not only a store, but an experience and a memory embedded in the childhoods of many. 

Guy Chapman's mini-documentary (below) takes you on a personal journey of the rise and fall of Toys R Us. He also exposes a sinister side of the reason for the failure of the chain. His childhood and the memories created by Toys R Us brought tears to my eyes as it also reflects upon the end of an era. As Guy says, getting a toy in the mail from a warehouse is not quite the same to a little kid as trying it out first at the store.

The end of Toys R Us is for myself and anyone born before 1985 a reminder that we were really the last children raised with a tangible life, where a person's formative years were spent in a world connecting more with people, places and things than online.  We weren't growing up flooded with constant stimuli competing for our attention and artificial intelligence was not a part of our daily lives. Like it or not a new day is here and most of us who didn't grow up with it are making it work because we have to and also want's a love/hate situation with technology. As Jasper from the Simpsons would say "What a Time to Be Alive."  

Speaking of memories the final day of business for Toys R Us (and Babies R Us) is June 30. The stores are still open and holding their liquidation sales. There are a few months left to stop in, bring a kid and make a final Toys R Us memory.

Link to the Toys R Us video

More from Guy Chapman, Corsicana Daily Sun columnist

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Healthy Non-Candy Easter or Gift Baskets

Easter Baskets have been an enduring tradition for hundreds of years.  There's a reason for that because they're fun to make for your kids, friends or a loved one!

Instead of making yourself or your recipients feel guilty for eating sugar and junk food, here are some great ideas for creating an Easter Basket of healthy snacks and fun stuff from YouTuber Nicole Pano.

If you're doing one for an adult it's easy to replace toys with small gifts such as a printed photo in a frame, a deck of cards, home made baked goods, small book or notepad, hair accessories, candles, etc. Also, your basket doesn't have to be a basket, it can be a decorative box, a pretty bowl, or any container you choose. Happy Easter!

URL Link to video:

Monday, November 13, 2017

How Retailers Can Make us "Go Shopping" Again

I am constantly reading about how brick and mortar retailers are going out of business due to internet retailers. "We can't compete, we can't compete," is their cry.

It seems that in the past several years very little has changed in the brick and mortar retail world, which is a big part of their problem. Here are some ideas that might get more of us away from online and back into on site.

Dressing room lighting.
For all clothing retailers from discount to department stores, please install pleasant lighting in your dressing rooms! Most of the time clothes that I buy and try on at the store actually look much better at home because the lighting was so harsh in the dressing room. This makes me wonder how many sweaters, jeans and dresses are tried on and not purchased by consumers because the lighting in the dressing room was so unflattering.  Also, please make the doors cover more than our middles. I don't enjoy walking through the dressing room seeing everyone's feet and sometimes their undergarments on the floor...and ouch those hard benches hurt! A little cushioning in the seating would be very much appreciated.

If you spend a little more to make the dressing rooms pleasant instead of an uncomfortable experience we just try to "get through," perhaps both women and especially men shoppers, (who most try to hurry through shopping as if they were on fire), would spend more time trying on and thereby buying clothes.

Don't charge us to park. 
We are coming to give you our money! With the sad state of shopping malls and department stores these days charging to park makes no sense to me. Fashion Show Mall in Las Vegas gets this right. If you can't do it free like they do at least provide free parking validation with a minimum purchase. The idea is to get people into the malls again not send them to another retailer that doesn't charge to park or worse yet back home where they can "park" themselves on their sofa.

Fashion Show Mall Las Vegas offers free parking for all

Stop the pressure for store credit cards.
Trust me we know almost every retailer in the country has their own credit card, and yes we know we get a discount if we apply, thank you. No, we still don't want to apply, but thank you. No, REALLY we don't want to apply so stop constantly asking. This is one of the main reasons I avoid Target and other retailers who are especially guilty of this practice. Even when I'm spending a few dollars I get the credit card pitch multiple times. It's annoying and an invasion of privacy. No, I don't want to apply for a credit card when trying to buy Advil and bottled water at Target, and I don't want to "just apply anyway for the discount," as that lowers my credit score and I shouldn't have to explain that to the cashier, (as if they didn't know). I'm not getting on the cashiers case here because I feel bad for them having to hustle the customers constantly.

Macy's seems better about this since they've implemented their Plenti bonus program because they get something out of that, like our shopping history and habits, which is at least  fair trade for some discounts and points given in exchange to us. All of this pressure for store credit cards takes away from our enjoyment of shopping. Many times if I'm buying something that's easy to order online like bath towels I'll do that instead of going to the store and getting pressured at check out for a credit card. This is unfortunate for the retailers because when I physically go to a store I usually buy more than just what I came there for.

Provide some seating.
It's a mobile world and we have to check our phones from time to time, return texts, emails etc. while shopping. If you would provide a small lounge or area with basic seating we would not have to leave to get things done. You could put up a sign saying "A 15 minute limit for seating is requested."...This would also  provide a place for our impatient husbands or teens to go so we have more time to shop when they want to leave and we're not ready. That extra time we spend at your store will sometimes result in us spending more but at the very least would make the experience more pleasant and somewhere we would all be more likely to return to. You could also provide a couple of computers with a link only to your site in case we can't find exactly the size or color we want on while at your location we could find out which one of your nearby stores has it. I have to do this on my phone sometimes and it's not always easy with the Wifi situation at some retailers and malls.

Sell drinks and snacks.
Many stores sell drinks and candy bars at check out as well as some department stores and I have to admit I've caved on that many times. At check out is too late though. Vending machines that are easy to locate (perhaps near my proposed seating area wink wink), would be better. Some water, energy drinks, and a few snacks would help us weary and hungry shoppers stay put. Nothing makes me quit shopping faster than getting hungry. My local Macy's makes that easy by having a Starbucks right inside the store!

Provide better quality.
Try not to put out so much merchandise that is Made in China. We know that quality on almost all clothing has decreased and we have come to accept a certain amount of that, but please remember when we're spending sometimes a lot of money on a supposed "designer" item we can tell when it's made cheaply. I know online retailers are guilty of this too, but you all need to shape up on this one, manufacturers, distributors and retailers alike.

Trust me when I say we still want to "go shopping." It's enjoyable to meet a friend for lunch and go shopping, or take our daughter to buy her first prom dress, select a gift for our friend's birthday, or go with our husband so he can  buy a suit for a friend's wedding. We really DON'T want to do everything online. Just try a little harder to keep up with the competition, (which is our living room), by making it easy and actually enjoyable for us to shop. We'll come back to those of you that do!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Wayne Newton...Up Close and Personal

Wayne Newton is one of those Vegas entertainers that us locals tend to take for granted. He's here, always has been and probably always will be, or so it seems.

Whenever I'd asked anyone if they'd seen Wayne Newton or Mr. Las Vegas (as he is known), perform, I always got the same answer from anyone who had, "Oh yes and he was wonderful, just so talented and charming!" Nobody had a bad word to say about  his act. I never forgot this because unfortunately I' d never gotten around to seeing him perform, even though he's been doing so his whole life.

So when he recently opened a new show at Bally's I made sure I was there. Wayne Newton - Up Close and Personal takes place at the newly renovated Windows Showroom. 

Wayne Newton playing one of his many instruments

This is the perfect venue for him. He's not trying to fill a huge theater anymore. Now is the time in his career to reflect and share with his audience in a personal way. This new show is a chance for him to sing a little, play a little, tell some stories and answer some questions. I like how he enters from the back of the room greeting everyone along the way, and has just a three piece band along with some multimedia and a special friend to support his story telling. The whole setup makes you feel like a special guest in his home.

Wayne starts out with the story of his life and how he saw Hank Williams perform at the Grand Ole Opry at age four and knew that that's exactly what he wanted to do. So he got started right away, singing at age five with his brother. Eleven years later they found themselves performing in Las Vegas as teens. This started his 60 years of performing in Nevada. 

He talks about being first produced by Bobby Darin, appearing on the Jackie Gleason Show,  touring with Jack Benny and of course performing with Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin as a special guest.  He shares his experiences starring in  Bonanza, North and South and one of his best known roles (as himself) in Vegas Vacation. Oh, and to hear Wayne Newton sing Danke Schoen live is something nobody should miss!

His stories are not only interesting but provide insight into the world of a lifelong entertainer, and the many ups and downs this unique lifestyle can have along the way both personally and professionally. He has made some mistakes and some wrongs have also been done against him, but he's still out there showing us all how to thrive by focusing on doing what one does best. 

To see Wayne Newton do his show is to see someone at his most alive. If anyone was born to entertain he was, and it just pours out of him. The love and energy he brings to a room is magical. I have seen many shows and am a bit spoiled that way, but Wayne Newton truly enchanted me. 

Wayne Newton - Up Close and Personal is at Bally's Windows Showroom

Friday, September 22, 2017

Mike Tyson's Undisputed Truth...Round 2

During Mike Tyson's boxing days I never thought I'd someday be going to see him do a one man show in Vegas, and at a comedy club no less.

The former Heavyweight Boxing Champion Mike Tyson is back onstage with Undisputed Truth 2, which debuted here in Vegas earlier this month and is a sequel to his one man show from 2013. That show debuted in Las Vegas and went all the way to Broadway, then a TV Special and a book.

For this show he chose to open it at Brad Garrett's Comedy Club at MGM Grand. Mike Tyson enters the comedy stage differently than he entered his boxing matches. There's no flashy robe, shiny shorts or entourage. Just music, and then he appears onstage and introduces himself with humility.

"Iron Mike is dead. I'm a different person today."  - Mike Tyson

He immediately sets everyone at ease by talking about his recent "sports injury"...which consisted of falling off a hover board, an accident that led to back surgery. During his last show in 2013 he talked about his early days and how he got into boxing, how it saved him because at 13 years old without a dad and growing up in a rough neighborhood he'd already been arrested 38 times. He shared his past troubled relationships with women, drug use and the tragic death of his daughter.

His new show Undisputed Truth 2 is more about the history of his boxing career. He talks about the opponents he fought along the way, some of the more controversial things that happened outside the ring during that time, and about his friendships with late celebrities such as Tupac Shakur and Michael Jackson. He also bemoans middle age and its impact on his life which he is becoming all too familiar with at age 51. He talks about regretting how he had embarrassed his kids with some of his actions and how he gained 100 lbs while in rehab joking "I'm an emotional eater."

One can tell that he's still working on this new material but that's what I like, the imperfect moments, the beginning stages of a show when the performer is finding his way. I would like to see this show again on one of the last dates here in town, to see how it's been fine tuned and how he's fine tuned his performance before he hits the road on tour to other cities.

While watching the audience react I heard a lot of laughter, but not always when Tyson expected it. Laughs or not everyone seemed to be listening intently. Someone like Mike Tyson will always be a curiousity to the average person even if not a boxing fan. He is someone who lived his professional dream. But on the other end of the spectrum he also fell far from the top to the very bottom, with drug abuse, prison and bankruptcy. Most of us wonder what this journey would be like, the extreme ups and downs.

These past several years like a true champ he has picked himself up and risen from the ashes to do what he can now, which is to entertain while being his rough, oddly sweet and comedically talented self. I love to see someone re-invent themselves, take chances and share with others so openly. What better way to take control of your own story than to tell it yourself? His show is worth your money and time.

Word is there's a movie in the works about his life that will star Jamie Foxx and be directed by Martin Scorsese. Also check out his cartoon series Mike Tyson Mysteries.

Mike Tyson's Undisputed Truth 2
Brad Garrett's Comedy Club at MGM Grand
Through Nov. 20th 2017