■ One year ago, Chicagoan Lindsay Gaskins opened the doors to her new shop, Marbles: The Brain Store, offering all manner of toys, games, and software programs designed to stimulate the brain. Laid out like a playground for adults, with tables and computers inviting customers to explore and experiment, the store has hundreds of products, each devoted to one of five areas of cognition: memory, coordination, critical thinking, visual perception, and word skills.
__ The store was such an immediate hit that Gaskins, Marbles president and CEO, is already opening her fourth location in the Chicago area, and looking ahead to expansion beyond the region.
__ “We’re so excited to see the enthusiasm,” she says. “People are really interested in the brain and how it works.”
__ Gaskins and co-founder Karen Luby originally conceived of the idea for Marbles when talking with their parents, who were concerned about the potential for developing Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.
__ “After talking with them and thinking about their needs and wanting them to have more mental stimulation in their lives, I started doing research in the field of brain fitness and found there were a lot of products out there, but there wasn’t any place you could go to try those products,” Gaskins says.
__ She has been pleasantly surprised to discover that the appeal of the store goes beyond her parents’ demographic.
__ “We found the people who are the most interested are probably in the 30-to-50 age range. They are buying for their whole families—kids and teenagers as well as themselves and their parents,” she says.
__ Although Marbles merchandise is reviewed for effectiveness by the neurology department at the University of Chicago, Gaskins places an equal emphasis on fun when choosing products.
__ Among her inventory: AstroJax, a coordination challenge she describes as a cross between “juggling and yo-yoing”; Hive, a strategy game comparable to chess; Snatch-It, a word game combining elements of Scrabble with a fast-paced group dynamic; and Insight, a software program that can increase users’ field of vision through an engaging video game. bw
You can visit Marbles: The Brain Store online at marblesthebrainstore.com.