Puzzles That Rock came to be, one snowy day during a Michigan winter in 2009. At the time, we (Matt and Lisa) owned a small specialty food store in the very seasonal, small, Northern Michigan town of Charlevoix. Matt had/has a chronic heart rhythm issue and was recovering from an open heart surgery procedure from a couple months prior. We were struggling, in almost every area of our lives. It felt as though things were snowballing towards disaster. So that winter, we started putting together puzzles in our store, as an outlet for us and the kids. Working on a puzzle was a way for us to put everything else aside and work together towards completing something and being able to see the beauty of completion after so much ‘hard’ work. Puzzles have a way of working out, you see so many piece out of order and somehow, they all end up fitting back together…..that’s why Puzzles really do ROCK!
HOW IT ALL BEGAN: We had just finished a Boston Red Sox puzzle, being that Matt is a New England native. We were sitting at our puzzle table in the front window of our store, aka The Human Snow Globe. Matt was working on polishing a new Petoskey Stone. Petoskey Stones are a BIG deal in Michigan. Thousands of people come to Michigan beaches each summer to try to find them. We are blessed with the ability (and secret spots) to find lots of them. While Matt was working on the stone, our boys, then 3 and 5, were running around in the ‘globe’ and I was modge podging the Red Sox puzzle when I said, what we now consider life changing words. “Hey, wouldn’t it be fun to put together a Petoskey Stone puzzle next. We should buy one.” As it turned out, there was no such puzzle, which seemed weird because there’s Petoskey Stone EVERYTHING around us. Stores sell corks, knobs, kits, playing cards, tiles, frames, lamps….you name it, in our area Petoskey Stones are where IT’S at, and it’s also the Michigan State Stone, doubly cool!
We started discussing this Petoskey Stone puzzle conundrum and came up with two possibilities. One, this was the worst idea we’d ever had, clearly why it had not yet been done. Two, we were quite possibly sitting on this really terrific idea that no one else had thought of doing… YET!
At this point in our lives, we were borderline bankrupt, on the verge of living in my parents basement (I’m not sure they knew that, but that was totally where we would have gone). We knew that there was a very real possibility that our business was going to go under. With that possibility in mind, we were determined to go out fighting. The next day we went into ACTION! We rounded up some of our best Petoskey Stones and started taking pictures. They were awful! So, we enlisted the help of a photographer friend who used a better camera, and her pictures were GORGEOUS! Matt grabbed a blown up print of our stones and started talking to local retailers to see if there was any interest. I think a lot of people thought we were crazy, which we are if you know us, so it seemed totally RIGHT!
We borrowed start up money, and ordered our first batch of puzzles. 3500 puzzles. GULP! That’s a whole lota’ puzzles! Our little garage was overflowing, literally. Matt then started traveling around to our surrounding towns in hopes of selling our puzzles to other retailers. Mind you, we still had our store, and it was now spring. We were getting ready for what was going to be a great summer… possibly our last, but if it were, we were going to make it great. Specialty foods and puzzles, they totally go hand in hand. Matt’s goal was to sell that first batch of puzzles in one year, even if that meant that he’d have to go door to door and convince people why our puzzle was so terrific. Lucky for us, he didn’t have to do that. After a couple trips around to some really great, unique Northern Michigan gift shops, all 3500 puzzles were gone within 8 weeks! It really did end up being a great summer! And that, was the start of our 2nd little business.
Our snowballing towards disaster began to turn around. The puzzle business complimented our store perfectly and allowed us to make our store a seasonal business. Therefore, we had time to create more puzzles, puzzles that we thought were creative and unique. Each item collected, all of our designs and every title chosen has a special meaning to us. Of course, most of our titles have a Petoskey Stone, our first idea, hidden somewhere in the picture.
Our two businesses worked together flawlessly. Matt and I had another baby. A girl, the first in Matt’s bloodline in 125 years… another big deal! Life is great!
In 2016, PUZZLES THAT ROCK was successful enough that we were able to sell our small seasonal business. We spent the summer, our first in Northern Michigan (since becoming parents), without scheduling or staffing issues, without the need for a babysitter for 8 hours a day, without having to work 12 hour days – for 3 months straight. Instead, most importantly, we spent the summer as a family! Looking back at it all, while writing this, we have been so blessed! That is the only way I know how to explain how a Petoskey Stone puzzle was the best thing that could have happened to us, on so many levels.
With ALL that being said, WE THANK YOU! Thank you for taking time at a table, with a bunch of people or by yourself, working on piecing together a puzzle. Puzzles are good for the soul. Thank you for liking WHAT we do. We LOVE what we do! Without other puzzle lovers, without YOU, there would be no PUZZLES THAT ROCK!
So, put the electronics away, find a spot (with good lighting), and start on a puzzle. They are a lot like life, it will all work out, you just have to keep working at it, suddenly the pieces all start to fit together.
~Lisa & Matt Claflin