“As a small business, we're able to access the world by putting ourselves online, knowing who our customer base is, and plugging those insights into our AdWords.”Jeff Caruso
Jeff Caruso’s great-uncles, Alphonse and Lucky Lodato, started Crisloid in 1948 out of their home in Brooklyn, New York. The two made and distributed high-quality classic games, such as backgammon, checkers, dominoes, and mahjong. Their company relocated to Providence in 1970, and in the years following grew into one of the largest classic-game manufacturers and volume wholesalers in the country. At the turn of the century, however, increased competition from overseas stifled the business. “It was difficult to succeed in the volume wholesale business with our premium, American-made products. We saw a downward path in sales for 10 years,” shares Jeff. Knowing that the company would need to adapt in order to remain competitive, Jeff shifted their business model from wholesale to direct-to-consumer. “I saw the future as being direct-to-consumer sales and started to focus on higher-end, handmade items where there was a good margin—and where we could directly reach the end consumer,” he says.
Crisloid launched their first e-commerce website in 2011. “We weren’t the most savvy online sellers in the first couple of years,” Jeff admits. “But with the right help and tools, it certainly has turned around nicely.” The company uses AdWords, Google’s advertising program, “to find customers that we otherwise would never have found," he explains. Jeff attributes nearly a quarter of their online sales to AdWords and says that they see a 500 percent return on their ad investments. With 90 percent of their marketing budget going to digital, Crisloid also uses Google Analytics to “understand what we’re doing with our advertising dollars, why we’re doing it, and how it’s impacting our business,” he adds. And G Suite tools, such as Gmail, Docs, and Drive, help keep their internal operations running smoothly.
Crisloid ships their products to over 5,000 customers annually. From their quiet-cork playing surfaces to their hand-crafted and polished checkers, every detail is designed and built in their 25,000-square-foot facility. Jeff is especially heartened by the younger generation of enthusiasts who are putting aside their digital devices to play the classic games. “I see this brand really sinking in across the country,” he says. “It serves a great purpose. It brings families together. These games are not going to get thrown out. They’re multigenerational—they're passed down, and they all have great stories built into them.” When he thinks about his great-uncles, he adds, “their legacy is near and dear to me, and I’m proud to be able to continue it.”