Tuesday, December 23, 2008

We had a great holiday season - our customers were upbeat, we had almost no annoying "hot toy" phone calls, and new customers (and old ones too) loved our great selection! This customer had just about as much as she could take and decided to rest up while we wrapped presents for her mom. Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas - we are blessed to have such a fun way to make a living in a town that supports a store like ours!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

We Had a Party!

Last Thursday night we had our open house party. I like to hold this event on the 4th of December, Independent's Day - a day for celebrating independent businesses. In my mind, it's a huge movement with parties at book stores, toy stores, hardware stores and every other small local retailer in every town in America. I'm still waiting for the network news to get in touch with me, but anyway, we celebrated. Andy Z did his show, we packed the under six set in like a nightclub on Saturday night and rocked the house to Frosty the Snowman. Cat in the Hat made an appearance, our friends from Zoob and Blue Orange showed off their wares and we had a great evening.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Just to prove that I do use the products we sell - here are my Thanksgiving left-overs that I brought to work today in my Laptop Lunchbox. I hope everyone had a great day yesterday. We're having fun here at the Golden Apple on this "big" shopping day! We are happy to see those few smart people who skipped the malls and the madness and took time to visit our little oasis of calm!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Stick Inducted into Toy Hall of Fame

Obviously someone has a sense of humor at the Toy Hall of Fame CNN reports.

Stick"s selection was attributed to its creative play factor "It's very open-ended, all-natural, the perfect price -- there aren't any rules or instructions for its use," said Christopher Bensch, the museum's curator of collections.

One critic did note that "You could put your eye out with that!". No word on safety warnings yet.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Best Thing You Missed...

One of the great things about owning a store is finding amazing things, and showing them to customers, who think they are amazing things too! Hooray for business! The other side of the coin is, finding amazing things, and then watching them sit, unloved and unnoticed. This is especially true for books. Toys can jump off the shelf and grab your attention better than books. I love books, and so I occasionally order what I think are really creative, clever books, and they gather dust. So I'm starting a blog feature! A book or toy you missed in our store. Maybe not you, but people kind of like you.
Jon Scieszka published his first book with illustrator Lane Smith, The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs!. Scieszka and Smith have collaborated on seven other books, including The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, a Caldecott Honor Book, and their most recent title, Cowboy and Octopus. Jon is also the author of the Time Warp Trio series for middle grade readers.
Obviously he is an authority on 9 year-old boy humor. Knucklehead is his tale of youth, and will have kids rolling on the floor. This book is so exhaustive in its detail that it includes an index:
Pee, We do not say that.
See urinate;swords, crossed;
sword fight!
counting to five in, 69
*note scieszka means "path" in Polish
poop, dog, 20-21
picking up, 20-22
cat, 93; see also yak, cat
group, 93
You can see what crowd this book is aiming for.
Scieszka has also set up a blog for Knucklehead here.
Now you know.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Getting Ready!

This is just a quick post, as there has been a pretty good gap since my last post. Between the election, the last minute ordering and the checking in boxes and boxes of toys, we have been very busy! I'm posting a picture of a very cute display that the Wednesday morning crew set up, first because it is cute, and second, because it won't last a minute past the first little boy that sees it! Lots more posting should be coming now, as we are sitting in the calm before the storm!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Why American Kids Have Farther to Go

Behold the blocks of death! Yesterday at the Golden Apple, I helped a young couple find early learning toys for their two year old. One item the couple wanted was a set of good old-fashioned blocks. Unit blocks they are called, and have been a preschool staple forever. I always push unit blocks at parents, as they are the simplest, most primary toy that every child should have. They ought to be standard-issue to all babies - forget about the trendy Mozart CDs. So I led them over to where we have a lovely 60 piece Melissa and Doug set (pictured), in its beautiful wooden case. The mom pointed out to me that the package says 3+. I looked and sure enough, Ages 3+. "Ignore that" I said. They looked at me like I was selling broken glass. "These are Unit Blocks, they are a standard size, there is nothing in this box that could possibly harm any child". They started backing away. I was appalled myself. Why would someone put a warning sticker on unpainted blocks of wood? Children all over America are being kept away from the most basic learning toy available, worth more than all the infant flashcards and Baby Einstein dvds ever produced, because some risk-o-phobic team of lawyers decided it was safer for them to bump the age. We are doomed.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

E-News is Out

The October edition of the Golden Apple E-news is out - and since it is technically the September edition, and it was finished before November, it was right on time! Between the blogging and the e-news I am slowly learning to complete assignments on time, which I seem to remember was one of those familiar check boxes on my report cards every quarter. It's a bit like painting the Golden Gate Bridge. Onward to the November issue!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Do You Have an Eco Cop in Your House?

More news from the NYT:
Pint-Size Eco-Police, Making Parents Proud and Sometimes Crazy
"Sometimes, Jennifer Ross feels she cannot make a move at home without inviting the scorn of her daughters, 10-year-old Grace and 7-year-old Eliza. The Acura MDX she drives? A flagrant polluter. The bath at night to help her relax? A wasteful indulgence. The reusable shopping bags she forgot, again? Tsk, tsk."
We see these junior Al Gores more and more at our store, and I love it! There are several new books coming along on this topic - Nancy Elizabeth Wallace is the author of "Recycle Everyday" pictured above - because of course you want to encourage this sort of thing!

Math Skills Suffer in US

From the NYT:
The United States is failing to develop the math skills of both girls and boys, especially among those who could excel at the highest levels, a new study asserts, and girls who do succeed in the field are almost all immigrants or the daughters of immigrants from countries where mathematics is more highly valued.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

What to do when there's no power...

It would appear hurricane Ike's damage is not big news nationally... a financial crisis must be a bigger item than a human disaster! There was, however some interesting toy-related Ike news recently. It seems that when the power goes out, kids get bored very quickly, or at least they are challenged to find ways to play the old-fashioned way. Here's a story from the NYT:
With Power Out, Children Find Idle Time Hard to Fill
We live in earthquake country, and our day is coming. It would probably be wise to put a few fun family games like Ruckus or Five Crowns in the survival kit along with the canned goods!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Morning Academy

We're starting a new weekly event at the Golden Apple. Beginning today, and every Tuesday, we are inviting parents and preschoolers to our store for Morning Academy. Morning Academy is our version of Story Time - just without the stories! We want to share some of our great learning resources with parents, and let kids find out how much fun they can have learning new skills. Many of the items we sell are not familiar to parents, and many parents are looking for more interesting ways to teach skills without resorting to "drill and kill" or electronic robo-teachers such as Leapfrog or Vtech.
We're inviting parents, grandparents and everyone to come to our Morning Academy, on Tuesday mornings at 10:00 am. Fun and educational, just like the Golden Apple!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Friday, August 22, 2008

Laptop Lunchbox for Back to School

Several years ago, we began carrying a product called the Laptop Lunch Box. This is a very cool, easy to carry lunch pack, like a bento box, but made of sturdy plastic so you can re-use it. We brought it in for two reasons, one because it is a very smart product. Reason two was that I wanted one myself!
Apparently, the time is right for Laptop Lunches. They are featured in Parent's Magazine this month, and have suddenly become the hottest thing going, both in the store and on our website. They come in three colors, Navy Blue, Pink, and Whimsical (otherwise known as Purple). Laptop Lunches combine several hot trends in one package - they're thrifty, as you can pack left-overs or home-made sandwiches from home; they're ecological, because you don't create waste with extra paper, plastic or packaging; and they are nutritionally correct, because you make the food at home, in controlled portions. I love mine, though I bought it before Whimsical was an option!

Bulletin Boards for Teachers

We held our Back to School Bulletin Board workshop on Thursday. Gayla created an amazing bee themed display. We will have the complete workshop video available on the website soon. Here's a quick view:

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Workshops for Teachers

Starting this week, we will be hosting an afternoon workshop for our teacher customers. The workshops will focus on different practical classroom activities, and with the help of our in-house expert, Gayla Peek, will be a valuable resource for teachers of all levels. For our first session, we asked Gayla to create a Back to School night interactive classroom display. Stop by on Thursday August 21 at 4:30 and you'll leave with a complete plan for an amazing BTS bulletin board, plus some free surprises!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Rep Day Movie!

A short clip of our big teacher event... it was fun!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Golden Apple Rep Day WOW!

We had an amazing day! Over a hundred teachers lined up starting at 9:00 for our big Rep Day event. The weather cooperated, with mildly blazing sunshine and our five years of experience hosting this event paid off. Crowd control was great, check-out time was reduced to an amazing 45 minutes, teachers had fun, reps had fun, employees had fun and everyone went home happy, though some of us were exhausted and happy.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Rep Day Reminder

I've been behind on my posting, as this week is our biggest event of the year, Rep Day! Years past this event has been off the charts - hundreds of teachers, check-out lines that took over an hour, a complete frenzy. I'll have pictures so you can see for yourself. If you are in the area, stop by on Wednesday Aug 6th at 10am. It's fun!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Things are Poppin'

I'm interrupting the travelogue to post some current news. While it is always fun and games at the Golden Apple, it's time to get serious about back to school. August is a big month for teachers here, and we go in to overdrive getting ready. We are decking the halls - this year we have our wonderful employee Gayla engineering some masterpieces of the pushpin art! These are 3d extravaganzas that pop off the walls, and pictures don't do them justice! To view a gallery of our displays, click here.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Back Home

I have returned from my trip to Sweden, Latvia, Finland, Estonia and Germany. The most important discovery I made was how hard it is to post from other countries if you don't have a laptop! Sweden was easy, as I had access to a computer - a Mac even, but after Stockholm it was next to impossible. So over the next few posts I will sum up my entirely personal observations about the culture, kids and toy stores of the countries I visited. First stop Sweden - the above picture is from a store called Barnens Handelsbod, located in Vaxholm. This store is specialty toy store heaven. A small cute cottage on a cheery street. I'll tell you about it in my next post!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Imagination play

Sweden is the home of BRIO toys, and the toy stores that I have
visited this trip reflect the Swedish commitment to imaginative play
that BRIO proclaims. The four shops I explored (and one department
store) devoted almost all their space to building toys, dolls, dress-
up, kitchen play, puppets and outdoor play. Less than 5% of the toys
required batteries. In three of the stores, I watched as several
customers waited patiently while the lone worker wrapped gifts! I
found very few items that the Golden Apple does not carry, but much
broader selections of things like pots and pans, colored pencils,
marbles etc.

Sent from John's iPod

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Welcome to Sweden!

You know you are in a country that loves books when this greets you at the train station! Apparently the highest literacy rate in the world. I'm off to a good start!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


One thing I am looking forward to on my upcoming trip is touring via bicycle. European cities like Stockholm, Berlin and Helsinki have very extensive bike routes and facilities. As a bike commuter here in the US, I am curious to find out for myself how safe and easy it is to get around these bike-friendly cities.
In the store, we are promoting bike riding by offering the Skuut. This is a balance bike that helps kids get ready for bike riding. It has air-inflated tires and a "real bike" feel, but no pedals. If you want to start a child on a healthy way to see the world, stop in a check out the Skuut.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Posting from the Road

This is a post via email testing the system.


Welcome to our store blog. With this forum I'll try to keep you informed of what goes on behind and in front of the scenes at The Golden Apple Learning Store. The Golden Apple is a 30 year old business serving the San Francisco Bay Area. We started as a teacher store, and have since grown to provide a range of educational materials and toys for teachers, parents, grandparents and more. Our store has a website - but this is not it. This blog will be the place where I, along with some of our great employees, share a bigger picture.

At this moment, I am getting ready to travel. I am off for a few weeks to Stockholm, Helsinki, Riga and Berlin. This blog is new today, so rather than start and then stop, I plan to try posting as I travel, sharing items of interest - especially about toys, education and kids. So for the next few weeks, just consider this a travel blog. Watch for expanded features when I return.