Q: How many of those caricature booth operations do you run? Do you own them yourself or are you acting as contract management with a park or mall (whatever) as the client? How much time do you spend overseeing the artists and/or operations for each setup?
A: The retail caricature business is different depending on where you are set up. Malls have a more traditional retail business model base whereas theme parks work a little differently.
Currently I have five retail caricature operations, three in seasonal theme parks and two year around in malls, although one is actually in a theme park INSIDE a mall. The three theme parks are Valleyfair near Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, Six Flags St. Louis near St. Louis, Missouri, and Six Flags New England between Springfield, Massachusetts and Hartford, Connecticut. The two mall locations are at St. Louis Union Station in St. Louis and at Nickelodeon Universe in the Mall of America near Minneapolis/St. Paul. I used to have operations at Underground Atlanta in Atlanta, Georgia and Riverplace in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Technically I “own” these businesses and lease the space we use from the property owners. In the case of the malls the arrangement is that of the traditional kiosk business: generally a one year lease with an upfront base rent for each month and a percentage rent of sales after a certain breakpoint. Theme parks work differently as they take no upfront rents but take a much larger percentage of total sales instead, usually also with a one or two year contract.
I have very competent managers in place in each location, and they handle most of the training and all the daily operations. I usually come around and help open up the parks and get everything up and running, and then work with the new artists as well as draw myself. Then I make a visit or two to each out-state location during the summers. I am much more involved with things at the Minnesota locations, and am out there several times a week but mostly just to handle management stuff. I still occasionally draw and will watch and offer advice to the artists as time permits.
In fact I am currently in St. Louis for a short visit to Union Station and Six Flags, returning today. Perhaps tomorrow I will post some pictures.
Thanks to Robert and Margaret Carspecken for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!
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