Monkey Huggers set to launch this year
By B.C. Manion
Some people thought Marcus and M.J. Price were crazy when they launched Goin’ Postal in 2002.
People would ask them why they named their business after a phrase with such a negative connotation, M.J. said. But the way they saw it, their mailing store could turn a negative vibe into something good.
Goin’ Postal blossomed into a franchise operation in 2004, and now there are approximately 260 locations nationwide.
After that, they launched Hut no. 8, a franchise business that specializes in the sale of gently used clothing and accessories for people in their teens and 20s.
They think their latest franchise concept — Monkey Huggers — has tremendous potential for boosting opportunity in Zephyrhills.
“We’ve always been looking for something that is a big enough idea to build something here that was going to employ hundreds, if not thousands of people. And, now we’ve got it,” Marcus said.
The Monkey Huggers franchise idea has been kicking around for years, but the couple had to wait until they got the software perfected for their Hut no. 8.
“The Hut no. 8 system is well developed now,” Marcus said. “We’re just writing second-generation software to manage the store and as soon as that software is done, it’s the same software that’s going to manage the Monkey Huggers store. The resale stores are very similar; they’re just a different product.
“For a long time now, we’ve been working on the characters and the theme, and we’re starting to define the look and the feel of the stores because everyone has always built resale stores that are like a Goodwill or The Salvation Army,” he continued.
Their approach is different.
They’re creating children’s stores that will offer resale items, but will be similar in concept to a Disney store, Marcus said.
“We’re developing the characters and the music, even down to the smell,” Marcus said. “All of our stores have licensed scents in them and licensed soundtracks. We’re going to do the same thing for Monkey Huggers. We’re going to make it some place where the kids want to go, not somewhere where they’re dragged by their parents.”
M.J. added, “Monkey Huggers will have a really fun, fun, interior feel. It’s going to be like a jungle. It’s going to be easy to clean for the franchisee with smooth, safe, rounded corners. But it is also going to be very vibrant, very fun.
“They’re going to want Mom or Dad to bring them there, or Grandpa or Grandma or guardian — so they can go play, watch the Monkey Hugger cartoons that are playing in the store, and it’ll be a nice experience for the moms,” she continued.
“I know it’s always a nightmare for me to have to bring the kids if there isn’t a place that’s a kiddie corral for them. They will have a safe, protected corral that they will be checked into. They can’t be removed from it without the parents signing them back out.
They’re participating in activities and watching the cartoons and doing something with a staff member while Mom can just shop and enjoy herself and relax.”
Work is under way to create the cartoon program, Marcus said: “Right now, the first episode is being animated.”
Monkey Huggers will be in sync with today’s trends and will have a full line of branded merchandise, the couple said.
“It’s going to be multimedia,” M.J. said. “There also will be apps. There will be games. There will be books and educational toys.”
Marcus added, “Just like Disney takes every possible approach to their business, there’s no reason we can’t do the same.”
M.J. said every element of the Monkey Huggers will be manufactured in Zephyrhills.
Beyond the store, there will Monkey Huggers-themed daycare centers and party centers.
“Every aspect of the business will feed every other aspect,” Marcus said. “From the stores, the kids will get to meet the characters, and because they get to meet the characters, they’ll want to buy the toys, the T-shirts and the clothing. We can stick the logo on everything.”
It’s expensive for companies to get new customers, but once they have them they can cross-sell, Marcus said. “We’ve got daycare services for them and those kids have birthdays — there are party centers for them.”
The Zephyrhills location of Monkey Huggers will be about 5,000 square feet, Marcus said. Generally, the stories will be 2,000 to 3,000 square feet.
The couple expects to have the first Monkey Huggers open and fully operational by Christmas 2013.
Work continues to develop the franchise’s starring monkey.
“We’re hoping to unveil our little guy, hoping — fingers crossed — we’re hoping to have him ready to appear on the Founders’ Day float in Zephyrhills, March 9, 2013,” M.J. said. “We’re hoping to have his theme song and him. … We haven’t named him yet. We will probably have a contest to name him. We may have a contest for the jingle.”
Besides being a fun place to go, the stores will offer good deals, the couple said.
The resale items will be about 70 percent off regular prices, Marcus said.
The new franchise provides the couple a way to thank the city of Zephyrhills, M.J. said.
The couple used to live in a van that didn’t run, and then they lived in a bus before they finally moved into a house in the East Pasco County community.
“There’s nowhere else in the world where we could have made it the way we made it here because Zephyrhills is the kind of community that it is,” M.J. said. “That’s why we remain here. … We’ve had plenty of offers to move our operations to other locations — all kinds of great incentives. That’s not home to us. This is home.”
Marcus put it simply, “Zephyrhills adopted us and we adopted Zephyrhills. We want to bring lots of jobs and lots of success back to the city.”
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