By Sharon Aron Baron
Residents typically recognize Jill Fox from the bio at the bottom of her Parkland Talk articles. But she recently added entrepreneur to her list of credentials — thanks to mah jongg.
No, she didn’t apply for “Shark Tank” or pick up a side hustle during quarantine, Fox came up with an idea to funnel her grief into something positive and maybe a little profitable.
In 2019, Carmela Coffee began holding Mah Jongg nights where groups of Parkland moms come with their card tables and Mah Jongg sets for a kid-less evening filled with friends, food, and fun.
Friends know Fox’s obsession with Carmela — she says it reminds her of Parkland’s own Central Perk.
“I like to work there, I like to meet my friends for coffee, and I love our mah jongg nights,” she said.
It’s been quite some time since their last event in January 2020, which was one of the motives for the creation of Fox’s new product.
The other was the loss of her parents.
“My mom passed away suddenly in February, right before the pandemic began,” said Fox. After laying low and keeping to herself for a while, she looked forward to an evening of Mah Jongg at Carmela.
Then came COVID.
“When we play mah jongg, all we do is nosh and touch our tiles — not a good combo these days,” Fox said.
Mah jongg night was canceled, and eventually, so was everything else.
Determined to find a solution, Fox spent an evening on her computer, brainstorming and researching ways to continue playing the game during a pandemic.
“I needed a distraction, and I found one,” Fox said, “A product for players to use to sanitize their Mah Jongg sets.”
She explained that players could try to clean their tiles with a Clorox wipe but Fox wanted people to have something portable and possibly entertaining for use on the go.
“My husband and my friends’ husbands already make fun of us for playing a Jewish old lady’s game, I wanted to find something to appeal to the new generation of players,” she said.
Fox came up with the perfect logo, “Some SOAP to wipe your CRACK.” Those familiar with Mah Jongg lingo will realize that “soap” and “crack” are both names of tiles.
“I crack myself up,” she said.
To Fox, this wasn’t about making a quick buck on a simple tchotchke. She wanted her small endeavor to mean something big.
“My mom was the Mah Jongg maven, so I had the connection to her, but I needed a component for my dad,” she said.
Fox’s father passed away from pancreatic cancer, and the disease has affected others close to her, so she decided to donate a portion of her proceeds to pancreatic cancer research.
On April 1, she launched MahJonggWipes.com. Players can now protect their sets and themselves by keeping their tiles clean and germ-free, and most of them “crack” up when they read the label on the mini canisters of antibacterial wipes.
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