If you haven’t heard already, we’re in the process of opening the second Off The Wagon shop ever in Chagrin Falls, Ohio (and we’re freaking excited about it)!! To celebrate we have an extra special blog post for you this week: a short history of Off The Wagon! If you’re already snoring or having flashbacks to history class, don’t worry because we’ll be back with more silly stuff next week. That being said, we figured a lot of you might be interested in our history! If you’re in the Chagrin Falls area and our shop is new to you, we hope this serves as an introduction! For everyone else, we hope you can learn a little bit more about our small business.
Today, Off The Wagon is owned and run by Michelle Sahr, but the whole adventure started with Michelle’s grandmother Lucy Sawyer Stevens. In the 1920s, Lucy was a young, female entrepreneur, but she wasn’t in the toy business (that comes later). Instead, Lucy started a business making and selling her own perfume! In 1926, Honey Gold Company was incorporated. Today, while we don’t do much perfuming, Honey Gold Company is still going strong as the parent company for Off The Wagon.
Lucy kept selling perfume and building the business for years and years. At its peak, Honey Gold employed 400 women to go door to door selling perfume! However, business dwindled as time went on. Eventually, Karl Stevens (Lucy’s son and Michelle’s dad) retired from the Navy and started working with the family business. In 1970, Karl opened up a Honey Gold storefront in Quaker Square, a shopping center in downtown Akron, Ohio. This location was successful enough that in 1990 Karl was able to buy a few other shops in Quaker Square, including a toy store called My Little Red Wagon.
Now we’ve made the transition to toys! However, My Little Red Wagon looked a lot different than Off The Wagon does now. It was a toy store just for little kids, up to maybe young teens. There were no gag gifts, not many board games, and way less weird stuff than we have now. So how did Off The Wagon come to be? Well, after many years in Quaker Square Michelle and Karl were running the business together, and they decided to open some new My Little Red Wagon locations. In 2003, they opened the Stow, Ohio store (which was huge), and in 2007 they opened a shop in Hudson, Ohio. The next town they were looking to expand to was Kent, Ohio, home of Kent State University.
Kent, being a college town, didn’t seem like a great fit for My Little Red Wagon, but Kent’s downtown district was asking for Karl and Michelle to open a shop there. They decided to create a spin-off of My Little Red Wagon that would better fit the location, and Off The Wagon was born! Michelle took on the task of defining Off The Wagon: ordering products, developing the brand, and so on. She wanted a toy store that would be fun for all ages, including college students, parents, and kids. This is how she came up with the weird and wacky selection that Off The Wagon hosts today!
They opened Off The Wagon in November of 2009, and it quickly became their most successful store ever! Because of this, when Karl passed away in 2010, Michelle decided to close the My Little Red Wagon locations. Now that she was running the business by herself, she wanted to focus her efforts on their most successful brand. In 2011 the Stow location closed, and in 2014 the Hudson location followed.
Because of this focus, Off The Wagon has grown and grown. Every single year since opening has been a record-breaking year for us! Just a year after opening we expanded the store, doubling our square footage (500 sqft to 1100 sqft) by merging with the space next door. More recently, in 2017, we doubled our square footage again (now up to 2300 sqft) when we opened up Red Letter Days. Red Letter Days is another spin-off brand that is attached to our Off The Wagon location in Kent. We sell a lot of our Red Letter Days merchandise on our website, and we’ll be carrying some of those products at our new Chagrin Falls location too!
Our website had taken off as well! Just four months after we opened Off The Wagon, we started selling our weird and wacky products on OffTheWagonShop.com. Just like our store, it’s grown every single year since then. Last year (2020), we shipped over 15,000 orders out of our little back room! Plus, we now ship worldwide. That makes us a global brand, right? (Probably not, but it’s fun to pretend).
Here at Off The Wagon, we’re proud to be a thriving small business in a world of corporations and conglomerations. We’re proud to be a family-owned, women-run business that was kicked off by an enterprising female entrepreneur all the way back in the 1920s. And we’re thankful for all the support we’ve received along the way from awesome customers like you. We couldn’t exist without our customers!
Look at that, you got us all sentimental and stuff. This is really off-brand for us, so we’re going to end with this to get things back on track: Why doesn’t James Bond fart in bed? Because it would blow his cover!!
The Off The Wagon Team