From hard-to-find action figures and comic books, to top-brand board games and puzzles, Puzzle Zoo and their new online toy store boasts one of the most unique toy collections in the country. And it’s not just a fave family-run institution—it’s also your Totally Awesome pick for best toy store in the Dallas-Fort Worth area! Owner Jay Demircift recently took the time to chat with us about what makes Puzzle Zoo awesome, the inspiration behind this fantastic toy resource, advice for aspiring business owners, and more. Read on:

Red Tricycle: Congratulations on being voted “Most Awesome” by your community! What do you think your customers value most about your business?

Jay Demircift: It depends on which customers you ask. We like to think it’s the variety of toys that gets customers in the doors, and it’s our friendly service that brings them back time and time again. We call ourselves A Unique Toy Store for a reason. We have thousands of products, from action figures to puzzles to toys that are extremely difficult to find in the US. That’s what we’re known for and that’s what most people associate with us. But I also have to give a mention to our employees, because they’re the ones who communicate with our customers on a day-to-day basis. They’re building the rapport that a small business like mine has to establish if we want our customers coming back year after year.

RT: What inspired you to start your business?

JD: My biggest inspiration was probably my father. He’s a longtime businessman and growing up I was able to learn many of the traits it takes to be successful in business. His interest in retail businesses implanted itself in me. When it was my time to establish my own legacy, I decided to focus on a product that I knew I could be successful with—and there is no product that I know better than toys and collectibles. I grew up playing with toys and I wanted to share my passion with as many people as I could. There is no greater feeling than walking into a store and getting a new toy. I love that experience. I love the smiles on the faces of children as they walk out of our store with a new action figure or doll. That smile is why I started this business more than 20 years ago and that smile is why I still do it today.

RT: Any advice for new business owners just getting started?

JD: It’s all about following your passion and being smart about it. When I started Puzzle Zoo, we decided to dedicate ourselves to a product that wasn’t very well represented in the area: puzzles. There weren’t any puzzle specific stores in town, so we noticed a niche we could fill. So starting out, we did whatever we could to be the best puzzle store around. We also recognized that puzzles would only take us so far. A quarter of all businesses fail in the first year, and half fail in the first five years. We didn’t want to become a statistic, so we kept our ears to the ground and tried to figure out what products would be best in expanding our business. Early on we took a risk with a toy that nobody else in the area was carrying. That risk paid off when we became the first Southern California toy store to carry Power Rangers action figures. That was our first successful product and from there we were able to expand to where we are today. I’m sure there’s a book on business clichés I could quote here, but honestly my success stems from pursuing a business model that I was passionate about. Building this business was hard work, but it never felt like it.

RT: Can you give us one tip for balancing entrepreneurship with parenthood?

JD: Time management. I cannot stress these two words enough. Time management is the key to everything, especially building a business while being a parent. Even if you have to take classes it will be totally worth it in the end. Because when you’re building a business, you’re building it for your family. You want to be successful for them, so they can have an easier life than you and have more opportunities than you. The more successful you are, the more time down the road you’ll have to spend with your family and friends.

RT: What is your proudest moment as a business owner or parent?

JD: When you’ve been successful in building a business for as long as I have, while at the same time raising a family, you find that you can look back on a novel’s worth of proud moments. Proud moments never end in business or as a parent. If I were to be frank, I don’t think there is a single moment that I could place on a pedestal above the rest; because no matter how small, each moment holds an equal place in my heart.

RT: Is there a special offer you’d like to include for Red Tricycle readers?

JD: This award is a huge honor for us. As a way of saying thanks to all the Red Tri readers who voted for us, we’re offering 10% off any order from our website, PuzzleZoo.com, using the code REDTRI10. Offer is valid both online and retail stores. Expires Dec 31st, 2013.

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