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The Inventor and The Machine...

Years ago, maybe 20 or so, an old timer approached my dad about a project. It turns out that this unassuming gentleman from somewhere in the desert was way ahead of his time. You see, he brought my dad plans to a perpetual motion machine that was going to change the world as we know it....obviously.

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Just a little something...

A few days ago, my 17 year old step-daughter was on her phone (as per usual) and suddenly said, "I need to get my credit card!" Please note that this is her debit card to her own bank account that is money that she has earned at her hostess job. Being the cynical step pop that I am, I said, "what are you buying?" and she replied... Continue reading

A $57 top?! A public response to a 1 star review.

I received an interesting product review the other day. You won't find it under the $57 EDC Top because it wasn't written by a customer. That's correct...he wrote a 1 star review about a product that he doesn't own. That said, I'd be remiss if I didn't share his scathing review with you. Here you go... Continue reading

Anniversary

A year ago today, the co-founder of this little business and my father, died of cancer. I never understood when others would talk about death anniversaries (for lack of a better term) but I get it now. A year has gone but I still find myself wanting to give him a call and ask a question or share the latest. That thing in your brain that denies the loss of someone passed months ago but now...well...it just sucks... Continue reading

Violation

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of driving to my grandmothers house to find that it had been ransacked by no integrity morons. For those of you that don't know, my grandparents moved out to Joshua Tree in the 70's. The garage for this little house became my grandfathers new shop which also turned into my dad's shop when he moved out there in the 80's... Continue reading

Spinning tops are dead?

I recently had a customer write me to let me know that spinning tops are dead and that I should figure out a new product idea. Admittedly, I was a touch offended when I first read it but, after some thought, came to the conclusion that this email was well intended. We've had email correspondence before and it was always positive so why would this be any different?

That's when some reflection kicked in. The reality is that my dad didn't start making spinning tops in order to sell them or follow some fad. He'd been making them here and there for years. He enjoyed them and, more importantly, enjoyed giving them to my niece for Christmas. Years later, when we started this business, I thought they would sell like hotcakes if we made them out of brass (instead of Aluminum). At this time, machined spinning tops couldn't be found in this vast treasure trove of online goodies (at least Google couldn't find any) so I figured that it would grab the attention of some folks. It did indeed. I sold every top my dad could make within minutes of adding them to the website. This is when I realized we really had something and I was going to have to start machining if we were going to keep up. I'll never forget my dad saying "you know, it's only a matter of time before other machinists start making these." and my response was "why would a machinist ever waste his time making spinning tops?". Within a couple of years, they were everywhere I looked (slight exaggeration) and the spinning top business was booming. So much so, that the majority of our other products got pushed to the side so we could keep up. This is the fad part that my customer was speaking of and I do agree that the fad has cooled a bit, but here's the deal...

I love making spinning tops. Not only that, spinning tops are a timeless toy that has been around for thousands of years! Not hundreds, thousands! That's about as timeless as it gets in my book. Yes, this recent boom of machined spinning tops might be categorized differently and it could be considered a fad but I never looked at spinning tops as a quick buck and on to the next product. It isn't a fad to me but something I love to do, that my dad taught me to do and hope that you folks collect them as timeless pieces to enjoy and pass along.

There's this guy that makes these folding brass star thingy's. I can't for the life of me remember what they are called or what his name is but he's been making these things since the 60's I believe. I stumbled across this guy in the first year that I started making tops and thought, that's what I want this to be. I want to be 70 years old and still out in that shop turning tops (and other goods of course). Hopefully you'll take that ride with me.

Anthony

p.s. I'm finally getting good at these things. Can't quit now!

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Consumerism and my daily struggle...

Every year at this time, I start to question what I’m doing. The level of consumerism in this country has reached unbelievable heights and I don’t want to be part of the problem. It doesn’t seem like too long ago that black Friday was….on Friday. It’s now a week long and probably only a few years away from being a month long. Stores started displaying Christmas goods before Halloween and have now started the Christmas music. I LOVE Christmas music but this is silly. Why do they do this? So you buy. That’s quite literally the only reason. We aren’t doing anything else to celebrate the holiday 6 weeks in advance. I love the holidays but despise the consumerism surrounding it. I have no issue with folks spending money that is hard earned on things that they desire but this pressure to spend, spend, spend in order to make loved ones happy every year is ridiculous. 

So what’s my problem? Years ago, this black friday thing was about insanely deep discounts (still is for some stores) that would last for a frenzied day and be done. The problem is that it’s put pressure on small businesses, like mine, to come up with deep discounts to compete. Maybe it’s a self inflicted pressure but it’s there nevertheless. Side note: Those deep discounts stores are offering aren’t to benefit you. They calculate how much they can reduce their margin by and make up in volume. It’s easy to do when you’re selling cheaply made goods that are just sitting and waiting to ship. In most cases, you end up buying products you’d never need or want because of the discount. The bigger problem is that the majority of my goods are handmade so extra sales with deep discounts mean nothing to me. The time it takes to make the goods counteracts the extra potential sales leaving my monthly gross about the same but adding a ton of stress and lack of quality in the final piece. I end up having to rush out orders and the quality slips. My goal is more than that so I’m choosing to focus on what I do and not get sucked into the holiday sale hype.

This brings me to my next problem. Am I just contributing to mass consumerism for the sake of making a profit? Well…I guess this is the challenge and the balance I have to find. I obviously have to make a profit and I want a piece of the dream just like everyone else but, at the end of the day, I want to make quality items that you will appreciate, enjoy and pass on. I’ve said for years that my dream is for a distant relative to see one of my pieces on Antiques Roadshow 100 years from now. I’m not kidding. The most difficult part is convincing myself that anything I make will actually have the desired effect. Am I really creating something of personal value that will change anyone? 

A few days ago someone wrote to tell me he was going to make a purchase but wondered if he should wait for a potential black friday sale. I told him that there wouldn’t be a huge sale but offered my 10% discount. In the end, I asked how he discovered us.

His response and timing was so perfect that I couldn’t help but think there was something/someone pulling this whole thing together.

He was in a major car accident months before and had been going through physical therapy. He didn’t get into detail but it seemed pretty bad and he said it was truly challenging his will. At the same time, there was a young guy bringing his mom in for physical therapy that would sit and spin this little top. They ended up chatting on every visit until the young man announced that it would be his mom’s last day and wished him good luck. He then handed him a coin that said “This Too Shall Pass”. The coin is from my wife’s line, Gemma Raffo, which thrilled us to hear because passing this coin along is exactly what it was intended for. He wrote that the coin got him through the rough patch and he ended up with a full recovery. Since then, gave the coin to a friend that is going through chemo hoping that it would inspire her as well. He searched the internet and found the website so he could purchase a top of his own.

My dad and I started this thing with little idea of where it would go. It was a side thing and I was just enjoying the time together. I didn’t expect the company to grow like it did but, over the years, we organically started making pieces that folks would hopefully cherish and pass on. There is a piece of me in everything I make. There was a piece of my dad in everything that he made. You purchase this for yourself or as a gift and there is a piece of you attached to it giving more depth to the piece. If it’s a top, you may carry it with you everywhere and spin this silly little handmade toy not realizing how important it’s becoming to you. One day you decide to give it to your son on graduation day and, because he knows how special this piece has become, it takes on a new meaning for him. Ten years later, that grown man sees a perfect stranger going through a really difficult time and passes it on to them. This is my little fantasy and hope for what I’m doing here. Yes, I’m selling things that I make in order to make a living but I also see something bigger than that. Otherwise, there would be no point.

Whatever your belief is, you have to know that we are all connected. We all go about our busy lives and will get occasional reminders of this fact but maybe it’s time we create some daily reminders. I know that after my dad passed away, this little company took on a whole new meaning for me and I know that he’s still with me in this shop guiding my hand and putting a piece of himself in as well.

Finally, this man that wrote me also sent me this quote from the Talmud after I shared my feelings. 

"He who saves the life of one man saves the world entire.”

This is my little thank you to all of you that allow me to do this and become part of your lives. I’m truly grateful.

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