Oct. 5-14 marks American Craft Week, a celebration of the artistry of American crafters and the wide array of decorative and functional objects they create. Jewelry, pottery, glass works and other distinctive specialty crafts are being celebrated, including classic American-made board games such as chess, checkers, backgammon, cribbage and Mah Jong.
Classic games have the unique ability to bring people together in fondly remembered experiences that enhance the quality of our lives. They are activities that serve as the focus of cherished traditions that unite families through generations. Yet, it’s new advances in technology that allow games that have been long a feature of our past to continue to be enjoyed by more and more people today.
At Crisloid, we have been making games for people of all ages and backgrounds for 70 years. We’re a family-run operation founded in 1948 under the name “A&L Manufacturing” by my great uncles Alphonse and Lucky Lodato, in their home in Brooklyn, N.Y. They had a passion for classic games and pride in the exacting craftsmanship of the products that their customers appreciated. Thanks to their dedication to quality, the company grew rapidly, and Crisloid became one of the largest classic-game manufacturers and volume wholesalers in the United States. We relocated to Providence in 1970.
However, as the years passed, our products struggled to compete in the volume wholesale business. And after several difficult years of downward trending sales, we changed our business model from wholesale to direct-to-consumer. We are one of very few manufacturers that let customers design their own custom-made board games. We now serve more than 5,000 customers annually.
Despite our success and history, our work within the realm of e-commerce today is not necessarily unique. We’re one of 3,400 Rhode Island businesses that benefited from online advertising tools last year. I know how important they’ve been to growing a small business to a global scale. Digital tools enabled us to find more of the niche consumers we rely on and serve best, and they’ll help us to keep growing without losing our focus on quality craftsmanship.
We’re optimistic there will always be a market for products like ours that are appreciated. Not only during American Craft Week but year-round.
Jeff Caruso is owner of Providence-based Crisloid.