LINCOLNTON – Everyone does deserve to have fun and a Lincolnton couple, Amber and Lin Sutton, have opened a toy store in downtown Lincolnton geared just towards that. Quozix isn’t a totally new store. Before opening a storefront, which is located close to City Cellar at 415 East Main Street, they travelled to flea markets and then opened at booth at Just Around the Corner.
“We had a passion for retro toys, board games, cards and toys like that,” Lin Sutton said. “When we were ready to dabble into entrepreneurship, we decided to go with our passion.”
The couple certainly have the test subjects for their toys with their four children ranging in age from nine months to eight years old, but they also keep bins of toys on display for other children (and adults) to play with.
Many of the toys that the Suttons sell are hard to find now. Remember Slinkys? This toy has an interesting history. It was invented by accident by mechanical engineer Richard James. According to the National Museum of Play, James was working to devise springs that could keep sensitive ship equipment steady at sea. This was in 1943. After accidentally knocking some samples off a shelf, he watched in amazement as they gracefully “walked” down instead of falling. Along with his wife Betty, James developed a plan to turn his invention into the next big novelty toy. Betty combed the dictionary for an appropriate name and came up with “Slinky.” James designed a machine to coil 80-feet of wire into a two-inch spiral. The couple borrowed $500 to manufacture the first Slinkys. Initial sales proved sluggish but soared after Gimbels Department Store in Philadelphia allowed demonstrations for Christmas 1945. The first 400 Slinkys sold within minutes. An advertisement with a memorable jingle familiarized a national customer base, “what walks down stairs alone or in pairs and makes a slinkety sound? A spring a spring, a marvelous thing. Everyone knows it’s Slinky!” Slinkys glided effortlessly down stairs on television, but alas most household steps proved too tall and wide for long descents. Still, at the end of the 20th century and 250 million Slinkys later, people continued to buy them.
The store also carries Mr. Potato Head, also developed in the late 1940s by George Lerner. According to the Idaho Potato Museum, Lerner would often take potatoes from his mother’s garden and, using various fruits and vegetables as facial features, would make dolls for his younger sisters to play with.
When Lerner first approached toy companies with his idea it was quickly rejected. With the war and food rationing a recent memory, it was considered irresponsible and wasteful to use fruits and vegetables to make toys. Lerner finally sold his idea for $5,000 to a food company, to be used as premiums in cereal boxes.
Lerner approached textile manufactures Henry and Merrill Hassenfeld with his idea in 1951. The Hassenfelds owned a small school supply and toy business called Hassenfeld Brothers (later known as Hasbro). Realizing the toy was quite unique and unlike anything they were currently supplying, Hassenfeld Brothers paid the cereal company $2,000 to stop production and bought the rights for $5,000. Lerner’s idea was then dubbed Mr. Potato Head and started production.
What makes Quozix, which by the way is a name made up of letters that are used the least in everyday English, is that there is a selection of toys for people with special needs like Fidget spinners.
“We like serving the underserved like people who have autism, dementia and things like that,” Sutton said. “We also have puzzles, not just jig saw, but others, for gifted children.”
Remember the Rubik’s Cube? Also according to the Museum of Play, Hungarian design teacher and serious puzzler Erno Rubik assembled his first cube puzzle in 1974 and called it the Magic Cube. After a toy agent pitched the puzzle to Ideal Toy & Novelty Company, it renamed the puzzle Rubik’s Cube and began putting it in stores in 1980. Soon puzzlers all over the world wanted to solve the cube. Within two years they bought one hundred million of them, making Rubik’s Cube the title of most popular puzzle in history. Its success fostered hundreds of spin-off products, from best-selling books on how to solve it to patent-infringing look-alikes by other manufacturers.
Though media first circulated a story about Rubik designing the cube to help teach students about three-dimensional objects, Rubik himself later acknowledged that he purposefully set out to design a puzzle based on geometry. The 27 tiny cubes called “cubies” produced a truly challenging puzzle. Each carried one of six colors, and when assembled they formed a square. Rubik’s challenge was figuring a way to allow the cubies to slide and rotate alongside one another while holding together as a unit. His key insight lay in realizing that if the individual blocks hinged on a rounded core, they could move freely while maintaining the shape of a cube.
Young puzzlers, known as “cubers,” are attracted to the seeming simplicity of the puzzle, and are often skilled at spotting the patterns—cubers call them algorithms—necessary to solve the cube. Since 2003, cube-solving speed records, held by “speedcubers,” have been governed by the World Cube Association. Devoted to fairness and fun, the Association maintains records for blindfolded, one-handed, and fewest moves to solve, among others.
The Rubik’s Cube has evolved into all sorts of new and engaging puzzles for young and old alike. Other types of toys include magic sets, STEM toys and activities, building blocks, and board games. There are also books, stuffed animals, adult stress relief items, and a small section of retro candy.
“You can find retro games in a lot of places, but when you get into the Fidget toys and a lot of the puzzles, they’re hard to find online and almost impossible locally,” Sutton said. “We found this out when we started to go to flea markets. It’s easy to think someone’s going to like something, but to go there and see people interact with it and then they buy it and support you. Now I know they like it. They’ll tell you anything, but buying it sends a better message.”
After the couple discovered there was a market for their idea, they opened one booth and soon were running out of room.
“We knew we had to get something bigger when we were on the verge of having to get two or three booths,” Amber Sutton said. “When this space opened, we decided to go for it.”
Currently the hours for Quozix which is located at 415 East Main Street in Lincolnton are Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from noon to 8 p.m. For more information, contact the store at (704) 479-8582 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org