A business that dubs itself the Brain Store should have a capacity to learn. That's why the Mall of America's newest retailer has evolved since its early days.

"We opened in Chicago with a focus on bringing brain-fitness software to the public," said Lindsay Gaskins, co-owner of Marbles: the Brain Store. "But it takes a while for people to understand program-based training. So we decided to complement it with things you hold in your hands and products for social interaction rather than staring at a computer."

That's why the shelves at Marbles, which opened a new store this month, include items such as Smart Mouth, in which players get two letters and have to use them at the beginning and end of a word, and Buckyball, a desk toy with 216 magnets that snap together at the user's whim in unlimited ways.

Games that appeal to all ages and improve memory and reasoning skills have proven relatively recession-proof. Glenn McKee, owner of Twin Cities-based Games by James stores, said products that go "beyond trivia and into deductive logic have been sort of a steady category for us, about 12 to 15 percent of our sales."

Angie Holmstrom, general manager of the Roseville-based wholesaler MindWare, also has seen steady sales for games that build strategy or memory skills. "We sell a lot to stores where an older parent or grandparent is buying something that they can feel good about," she said.

That's true whether they're buying it for themselves, a younger generation, or both.

Bill Ward • 612-673-7643