Specializing in Delight

To enchant its guests, Salt Lake City’s luxurious Grand America hotel added a toy store to its lineup of onsite shops. Called JouJou, the four-year-old retail space reflects the same spare-no-expense ritziness that helped make the 1.2 million-square-foot hotel famous.

With 24-stories and 775 rooms, the Grand America was developed by the late billionaire Earl Holding to accommodate guests in town for the 2002 Winter Olympics. One of the largest landowners in the country, he owned Sinclair Oil; the Little America Hotel chain with locations in Arizona, California, Idaho, Utah and Wyoming; and Sun Valley and Snowbasin ski resorts.

“The Grand America pays close attention to detail as it provides memorable guest experiences. It prides itself on offering luxurious surroundings for all ages,” Brand Manager Rachael Kaneko told us recently. “We’re pleased with the way JouJou charms our global travelers with unique products, engaging displays and personalized service.”

Designed by Salt Lake City firm STRUCK and created with a host of local, specialized artists and craftspeople, JouJou provides many high-concept “things” that shake up the store. Here are just a few features its customers find delightful.

Look up. Floating along on their amoeba-shaped track are a dozen colorful flying machines from two imaginary European companies: the Société française d’aéronautique and the Deutsches abenteuer luftschiff GmbH. Actually, they were created by local firm Plastik Banana Design Werkshop using a 3-D printer.

Twirling from the ceiling with an independent motor system (so each can rotate in its own direction and at speeds that vary from 2 to 15 rpms) are balls and cones airbrushed to resemble candy.

Speaking of candy, there’s a musical organ full of it. Constructed by Craftsman Kitchens, its pipes hold 42,500 gumballs in 18 colors. “In order to fill the organ tubes without the gumballs shattering, a combination of bed sheets, paper funnels and some seriously strong people poured the candy in place,” says a description by STRUCK.

Surprise! The organ lights up and plays when people walk on the floor and activate a sensor.

Ten unique monsters provide additional entertainment. More than 1,500 hours of design, modeling and animation from three different companies went into “Monsterpiece Theater,” which is also activated by sensors. Ten Apple Mac Minis concealed behind the monsters’ wall read the sensor information and operate video screens.

The store also displays a 7-foot-long dragon constructed entirely of recycled cardboard – more than 50 4-by-8-foot sheets. Plastik Banana designers oriented each piece so that all corrugation lines are parallel. The dragon weighs less than 30 pounds.

More recycled materials – transmission parts and watermarked 20-gauge steel – were used by artist Andrew Chase to create the giraffe, raccoon and owl who inhabit the dressing room.

A fairy lives in each lighted hole of the tree until she is caught to be taken home in a specialty branded jar that includes the fairy’s name and favorite activities.

Matching JouJou’s unique experience is its product mix. “We don’t want to sell items that are flooded on the market,” Susan Clissord, the hotel’s retail manager, told me in December. She monitors social media, the Internet and buyers’ markets to find new products to bring in. “JouJou prides itself on selecting products from manufacturers in both the U.S. and in France. We look for quality, function and uniqueness. I have children of my own, so I know what I am constantly looking for and what I can’t find in other stores.”

Shoppers include families in the surrounding community and hotel guests. Many of JouJou’s products are affordable and travel-friendly to meet the needs of business travelers looking for gifts and souvenirs to take home to their families. When we spoke, hot sellers at JouJou were 12-inch Plush Animal Houses from Unipak and Sticker Packs from Peaceable Kingdom.

“Most of all, as an interactive toy store, JouJou is focused on sparking curiosity,” concludes Susan. “We encourage kids and adults alike to play with the products and allow their imaginations to flow.”

by Tina Manzer

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