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New business rents out toys

By Jeff Kiger

jkiger@postbulletin.com

A local couple is bringing the NetFlix business model out of the TV room and into the playroom.

Jeff and Jessica Raschka, owners of A Puzzled World store in Rochester, launched a membership program this week to rent more than 500 different toys, therapy equipment and educational tools.

The Raschkas opened A Puzzled World at 3110 Wellner Drive N.E. in 2007. It primarily sells products geared for children and adults with autism, cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome and Attention Deficit Disorder.

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"Basically, we just listened to our customers," Jeff Raschka says. "Obviously, everybody is being more cautious with money these days. However, nobody wants to deprive their kids of toys or therapy."

With this model, parents can try out therapy equipment or systems with their children that have conditions like autism and see if it will help them.

As a father of two young children, he pointed out on the toy side of things that kids often master or grow tired of a toy or puzzle within a few weeks. Then it goes on a shelf, often never to be used again.

"Younger children grow physically and mentally so fast," Raschka says. "That adds up."

The new service can also help teachers who often buy things for their classrooms out of their own pockets. This service would allow them to regularly bring in new materials by paying a set monthly fee, he said.

For now, members that join the new program will need to pick up the items at the store in northeast Rochester. In the fall, the plan is to offer shipping of the rented materials to customers.

That will play into the store’s online business, which already reaches customers around the world.

Since A Puzzled World is a new concept, the Raschkas said when it opened that they hoped to spawn franchises and have stores across the country.

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Jeff Raschka says that is still the long-term goal and this new rental program is another piece to hopefully strengthen the overall concept and make that possible.

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