Cville Merchant's Low-Tech Marketing Trick Draws New Customers Daily

Jul 6, 2018

Retailers in this country spend billions of dollars on marketing.  Toy stores, for example, devote an average of ten percent of their profits to ads, but a small shop in Charlottesville is doing something different and reporting great success. 

Hundreds of people will pass by the Alakazam Toy Store on the downtown mall in Charlottesville each day – a few stopping to read a small sign outside.  Today it says: What does Ariel like on her toast? 

The Alakazam Toy Store joke board
Credit Sandy Hausman/Radio IQ

Come inside and make a guess

Cassandra Mathis has owned this place for 13 years, posting a different joke each day and luring customers inside for answers.  What does Ariel, the Little Mermaid, put on toast?

“Mermalaid!  And are there others that you’ve loved over the years?  What is a frog’s favorite soda?  CroakaCola?  What kind of lizard loves to tell jokes?  I have no idea.  A silly mander (laughter)

Mathis uses e-mail, Facebook, Instagram and advertising, but she says the most effective marketing tool is that joke.  Plenty of people pop in, if only to hear the punchline.

Cassandra Mathis at her store
Credit Sandy Hausman/Radio IQ

“Multiple times in a day.  One woman comes in just so when she calls her grandson she can tell him the riddle and try to get him to guess it.”

Her main source for material is the Jokelopedia – which provides over 17-hundred riddles and puns.  Mathis says she sells more than 30 copies a month.  With grandchildren living out of state, she plans to sell the business soon but hopes the new owner of Alakazam will continue the joke-a-day tradition.