New Mega Genius Supply Store and IQ HQ opens near Kimball Junction
June 30, 2015
Sitting at a table at the recently opened Mega Genius Supply Store and IQ HQ near Kimball Junction, Teri Orr explained how the store came to be.
It all started with Orr’s chance encounter with Larry Gilbert, president and CEO of Event Network, a company that helps non-profit organizations with merchandising. Orr, executive director of the Park City Institute told him about the organization’s struggles with the retail aspect of its original Mega Genius location on Swede Alley near Main Street. Gilbert was intrigued.
"It was not a decision to make a second store," Orr said. "It was a serendipitous meeting between Larry and I at a social event. We were talking about how I wish I could improve the retail at our current store, and all of this grew out of that conversation."
The Park City Institute had modeled the original Mega Genius store after 826 Valencia, a literacy and tutoring center in San Francisco created by author Dave Eggers. The store, which opened in 2010 and features a retail shop and after-school tutoring, had not been self-sustaining, though. Much of its offerings were items Orr had bought online, and they were not being marked up in price before being sold.
"We’ve been kind of stealing from the rest of our budget to make this work," Orr said. "It’s something that’s hard for people to wrap their heads around, so it’s not easy to get grants for what we’re doing. So this is an extraordinary gift that will really allow us to put some foundation under what’s been kind of chewing gum and duct tape."
The solution Gilbert and Event Network came up with was to create a second retail space — one that would be professionally designed and offer quirky, fun items that aim to stimulate the imagination, such as a science tricks kits, Rubik’s cubes and potato guns.
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The project was completed in early May, when the Mega Genius Supply Store and IQ HQ opened at 1153 Center Drive in Newpark. All of the proceeds from the store go toward providing free after-school tutoring for Park City children, which will still be held in the Swede Alley location.
"It’s about that inner genius idea and ways to unlock a passion," Gilbert said. "We want to illuminate that big bright light that the Mega Genius idea brings to the kids."
He added that Event Network had long wanted to get involved with a program modeled after Eggers’ 826 Valencia. From Gilbert’s perspective, partnering with the Park City Institute on the Mega Genius store represents the culmination of a longtime ambition.
"We had actually reached out to the 826 group and had tried to connect with Dave, but they were busy doing what they were doing," he said. "So when Teri mentioned her affiliation and that she had brought that idea to Park City, it was a perfect opportunity to work together."
Orr is optimistic the community will embrace the new store. She said she hopes the tutoring program’s influence will expand, because it aims to help students of all walks of life.
"We find that since we’ve opened, the students that come to us are from a variety of directions," she said. "We have children that are struggling in school, children that are very successful in school but socially awkward, autistic kids who need one-on-one attention, kids from single-parent families who need an adult in their lives after school."
Orr hesitated to speak on behalf of the students who’ve participated in the tutoring about their experience, but she did say the Mega Genius stores have been rewarding for all involved at the Park City Institute.
"It’s made a huge difference," she said. "Being able to watch a young person grow within the course of a school year in their ability to understand reading and comprehension, but also to watch them grow in their social skills, is really rewarding. I think all of us love all the parts of the institute, but there’s something really special about the time we get to spend at the Genius store."
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