LONGMONT — Some people thought Darren and Lillianna Moon had lost their marbles when they chucked their comfortable lifestyle in Houston to move to Longmont, knowing only that they wanted to start some sort of business.
Au contraire. “Moving to Colorado was a no-brainer,” said Darren Moon, who lived in Alaska and New Mexico before Houston. “We plan to put roots here. We did our research to find the right community that was walkable. It was a find-our-tribe kind of thing.”
And when it came to what type of business to embark on, Moon explained, “We knew we would have to check out the community and see what it was lacking.”
Turns out, Longmont didn’t have a dedicated toy store — but it does now. The couple opened Lost Marbles Toy Store in August in part because their research showed that, “From where we are, there are 24,000 kids under the age of 18 in a three-mile radius,” Moon said.
Getting the store up and running didn’t happen overnight. After relocating to Longmont in 2015, they met with Janine Ledingham, director of local business and startup community development for the Longmont Economic Development Partnership. She in turn connected the couple with the Small Business Development Center and the Downtown Development Authority and with other downtown retail business owners.
“They are a great addition to Longmont’s local retail sector and add to the unique character of our downtown,” she said.
The Moons took advantage of the Startup Essentials class put on by the SBDC in Longmont and the 10-week Leading Edge Entrepreneurship class offered by the city of Longmont and Longmont EDP. At the conclusion of the class, the Moons had their business plan in hand. All they needed was a storefront.
“In retail, like getting a home, it’s location, location, location. When I was writing the business plan, I knew we had to be on Main Street,” Moon said. He happened upon the perfect location while walking his dogs during a January snowstorm. “We took a different route and I ran across this building with a for-lease sign. I called the number and immediately signed the lease.”
It wasn’t long before they were introduced to the challenges of renovating a historic building. “Everything was out of code, so it took twice as long to complete,” Moon said. The seven-month renovation project included peeling up linoleum floor tiles to reveal original Douglas fir floors, which they then leveled and refinished. They also removed the drop-down ceiling.
The couple had a soft opening in August, with the official grand opening set for Nov. 12 — just in time for the busy holiday toy-buying season.
“We’re a specialty retail store. We don’t carry stuff that you’re going to find at department stores,” Moon said, conceding that the big-box stores are their biggest competition nonetheless. What customers will find at Lost Marbles, however, is a “huge collection” of Melissa and Doug wooden toys, Beanie Boos, Brio train sets, Ravensburger puzzles and a full line of items and activities focused on science, technology, engineering, math and art — better known as STEM and STEAM. But you’ll also find traditional games such as cribbage, chess, checkers and, yes, marbles.
For now, it’s just Darren and Lillianna manning the store seven days a week, albeit with help from their daughters. “Our 10-year-old can run the register on the busiest of nights, and the 6-year-old does her best to acquire one toy a day if she does enough chores to satisfy mom and dad.”
This toy store, however, has more going for it than toys, games and puzzles for kids. The Moons have a 700-square-foot flex room in the back of their building where they plan to offer instructional classes, such as children’s yoga and tumbling classes, and arts and crafts. It can also be used for birthday parties.
On down the road, Moon said, they might look at opening “a different type of brick-and-mortar business. We want to be a big part of downtown Longmont.”