Puzzles are a best seller at Ben’s Variety & Frame Shop

CANTON Fed up with Facebook?

I can’t bear to watch another dog playing the piano video or this “What if not?” discovery card. » commercial?

There’s a fun, low-tech activity that can test your skills and patience, while giving you a sense of accomplishment.

Since the pandemic outbreak, puzzles have been flying off the shelves at Ben’s Variety & Frame Shop at 803 30th St. NE, located on Tip Top Plaza.

“We’ve had puzzles for 15 years, but not nearly as many as we have them now,” said Larry Donohue, who owns the store with his wife, Debbie. “Once this virus started, people kept buying.”

Donohue said the store now carries an inventory of 400 to 500 puzzles. They range from 300 coins to 2,000 coins “if you’re up for the challenge”.

They also offer puzzles for kids ages 4 and up.

“Surprisingly, there are a lot of adults in nursing homes who like to do the 300-piece puzzles,” Donohue said.

Due to demand, Donohue said the puzzles have become more difficult for retailers to obtain.

“When I order puzzles, ‘I’m lucky to get 60%,'” he said.

Donohue said he orders from five different companies.

“They all have their own themes.” he said. “For one group, the theme is 1950s and 1960s cinema. That era seems to be the most popular. My favorite, if you really want to be challenged, is a black cat superimposed on a black background, with big green eyes and black whiskers.”

long time hobby

John Spilsbury, a British cartographer, is credited with creating the world’s first puzzle, in 1767. The first puzzles were maps glued to wood, which were then cut into small pieces.

According to Puzzle Warehouse, puzzles became extremely popular among the wealthy in the United States in the early 1900s. the average monthly income was $50.

In 1909, board game company Parker Brothers went into business, cashing in on a two-decade-long nationwide craze for puzzles, aided by the introduction of interlocking pieces and animal-shaped figurines. and flowers.

During the Great Depression, puzzles grew in popularity as people had less money to entertain themselves with. Unemployed architects and other artisans began producing puzzles for sale and rent.

Some retailers and libraries even rented puzzles for pennies a day.

In 1933, the Parker brothers were selling 10 million puzzles a week.

After World War II, the Springbok Co. introduced a cheaper cardboard puzzle. In 1965, puzzle fans struggled to put together what Springbok billed as the world’s toughest puzzle, based on abstract artist Jackson Pollock’s “Convergence.”

The Donohues have owned the former Ben Franklin store which they have renamed since 1979.

“There has been a Ben Franklin in this place since 1962,” he said.

The couple also owned a Ben Franklin store in Southgate, but closed it in 2001.

Niche in Guangzhou

Originally from Buffalo, NY, Larry Donohue came to Canton in 1972 to work as a district manager for the former department store WT Grant.

After this store closed, he decided to go it alone.

“We do what the big guys don’t,” he said of Ben’s Variety & Framing Shop. “We could never compete with them, with the (purchase) discounts they get. But we have a niche, from framing to puzzles, candies and 99-cent greeting cards.”

Debbie Donohue with a puzzle she framed for a customer at Ben's Variety & Framing store in Canton.
Specialized glue for saving completed puzzles can be found in the puzzle aisle at Ben's Variety & Framing in Canton.