At the height of the Great Recession, Rick Barstow was selling boats for Marine Max in Oakdale. “Not the greatest time to be selling boats,” he admits. But he loved his job and he did it well, with loyal and happy customers.
But with stores closing, he was getting moved from store to store, finally up to Rogers where, as a Woodbury native, he says, “It was like a different state.” During these years he had been brainstorming a new business idea. “You know you work hard to get someone in the right boat, but then they come back a year later and say, ‘Now my wife wants to go camping,’ or ‘I want to go four-wheeling.’”
Purchasing a boat, camper, RV or four-wheeler isn’t practical or possible for most people, and Barstow thought to himself, “There’s got to be a way to have access to all of it.”
In 2012, the idea became Fractional Toy Store, located across the highway in Oakdale. “Our mission is really to help people get outdoors,” Barstow says. “Whether that’s rental, membership or even buying.” While he doesn’t sell directly, he has relationships with dealers in the area to help put you in your dream RV, boat or snowmobile.
The program isn’t a timeshare, Barstow says, but a rental and membership service based on points. If a customer wants to get out just one or two times a year, they’re probably a rental customer. “If you’re looking to do more than that, then the membership comes in because you get discounts [and] extra privileges,” he says. There are four different levels of membership, but unlike some clubs, it’s not tier-based, where only the top tier can take out the nicest toy. The memberships are based on points. “If you’re the bottom level, which is only $2,000 a year, you might not be able to take out the RV just because you won’t have enough points.”
The four levels are based on each member’s budget and needs. “We like to sit down with people and say, ‘Well, what are you trying to accomplish? What do you want to do in a year? Do you want to go camping three to four weekends? Do you want to do boating?”
Aside from the points system allowing greater access to various “big toys,” it also protects members from unpredictable seasons. “If we get another summer like we did a few years ago where you couldn’t boat because of the no-wake, or there’s no snow, as long as you’re a current member and you sign up the next year, your points roll over,” Barstow says. “I didn’t want to sell something where you felt you got [ripped off].”
Client Adam Royer appreciates the many benefits of Fractional Toy Store. “We debated whether we wanted to own a boat and a camper with all the responsibilities that go along with it. How much would we actually use them to get our money’s worth? How do you winterize? Where will we store everything? All the additional payments and costs that go along with buying and maintaining were overwhelming to say the least,” Royer says. “Our Fractional Toy Store membership gives us the opportunity to have the things we want to do without all the responsibility. It just made more sense.”
Fractional Toy Store has slowly grown over the past few years, adding boats, campers and jet skis as membership numbers grow and interest increases. Barstow started out with a few parking spots in the lot outside his current building, and now has more than 60 toys available. A workshop doubles as a showroom, and a clubhouse is being finished this fall and will be available to rent for parties and events.
Barstow’s goal is to get people outside for a fraction of the cost and explore in whatever way possible, he says. “We act like their concierge for the outdoors.”