Published DateBy Sean Minton
JACKSON — White Mountain Puzzles of Jackson has evolved over the last 35 years into a nationally recognized brand with a fiercely loyal following. The company sells its colorful 1,000-piece and 500-piece puzzles mostly to adults. With over 400 designs, White Mountain puzzles appear across the country in specialty gift shops, museum stores, major chains and online.
For the first time in company history, White Mountain Puzzles plans to launch a children line. "We couldn't think of a better place to try out images for children's puzzles than at the Jackson Grammar School," said Sean Minton, who attended the school from 1976-1982. The grammar school sits right next door to the company's offices at the Jackson Falls Marketplace where the company also operates a puzzle retail store.
On May 23, the company held a puzzle focus group with more than a dozen kids and parents from the Jackson Grammar School. Participants were surveyed about their puzzle-buying habits and asked to vote on dozens of images being considered for the initial launch of the new children's line.
White Mountain Puzzles started in 1978 as a resort adverting business, by Kearsarge resident Ted Wroblewski and former Jackson resident, Cronan Minton. Minton and Wroblewski originally sold ads to businesses in resort areas which were then featured on souvenir maps of each resort. The Mount Washington Valley was their very first project. While they still produce a few resort puzzles every year, the company's primary focus has turned to producing puzzles than can be sold nationally. Two years ago Wroblewski's son, Colin, left a corporate job with Dunkin Donuts and moved his family up to Bartlett to join the company. In January, Minton's son, Sean, left a Silicon Valley start-up to join as well.
Despite Ipads, Iphones, video games and other electronic distractions, the demand for puzzles is better than ever. White Mountain Puzzles had its best year in company history last year and is on pace to do even better this year.
Minton believes that the combination of the weak economy, an aging baby-boomer population and "screen overload" has helped demand for puzzles. Minton says, "Puzzles are an inexpensive form of entertainment. Prior to last year, our best year was 2009 when the economy was in free fall. Many U.S. consumers opted to stay home and pursue inexpensive forms of entertainment such as jigsaw puzzles. On top of that, the loss of U.S. jobs created a huge demand for 'Made in the USA' products, and, unlike many of our competitors, 100 percent of our puzzles are manufactured in the U.S."
Minton also believes parents are looking for more ways to keep their kids off of video games. Companies like Legos and Lincoln Logs have seen a huge resurgence because of parents desire to limit their kids screen time. As White Mountain Puzzles continues to grow, the company felt the time was right to finally enter the children's market. Based on feedback from the Jackson Grammar School, parents will see a new line of children's puzzles on the shelves this fall from White Mountain Puzzles.