• Pamela Brill

Patriotic Playthings

For some companies in the toy-making business, staying close to home isn't just about being economical- it's about being ecological, too. "With a reduced need to ship goods from overseas, we see savings on major operating costs like shipping and transportation, and a reduction in the overall use of fuels and energy," says Chris Clemmer, co-founder of Begin-Again Toys of Fort Collins, CO.
     Other suppliers find they have better quality control over locally made goods. "Our factory is located 150 miles from our offices, so manufacturing here means no 12-hour time difference, no middle men, no language barrier, reduced transit times and lower shipping costs," explains Will Sakran, owner/principal designer at New York-based Toobalink.
     Green Toys of Mill Valley, CA also benefits from maintaining nearby manufacturing facilities. "Our constant presence insures high quality, as we visit the factory two to three times per week," says Robert von Goeben, founder/president. "Also, we have the peace of mind that our California factories are safe and sound by operating under some of the most stringent environmental and worker safety laws in the world."
     Being able to fulfill last-minute orders is also an advantage to homebased operations. "If we get an unusually large order, we can turn on a dime," says Kem Clark, president of Phoenix, AZ-based WikkiStix. "We don't have to worry about container shipments and any delays that might occur."
     "Keeping our own manufacturing gives us control and flexibility that importing cannot," seconds Mike Rainville, owner of Middlebury, VT-based Maple Landmark. "For example, we can respond to unexpected demand that hits after Thanksgiving and still make it for Christmas."
     But, as toy manufacturers reveal, keeping business stateside is not without its obstacles. Flying Rabbit Enterprises of Cincinnati, OH, continues to search for manufacturing partners that will enable the company to profit substantially from its Baffle! board game.
     "We're in the process of getting quotes for another run of our game and have discovered that the companies who made the last run are both increasing their prices," say creators/founders Diane and Kyle Hill.
     At Roy Toy, the company was tasked with locating U.S.A.-made supplies. "We recently came out with a line of Build & Paint products, and needed to find a kid-friendly paint," says Sue Dennison, co-owner of the East Machias, ME-based company. "It was a challenge, but we found it."
     Regardless of the possible pitfalls along the way, at the end of the day, the choice to keep the business of toy making local may boil down to a matter of principle.
     "Manufacturing here is a smart business decision and gives us a competitive edge," says Paul Dedrick, president of Buffalo, NY-based Buffalo Games. "It's the best way to service our retail partners; it makes us more cost-efficient, reliable and responsive."
     "As a business owner, I feel it's my responsibility to support my community," says Michael Araten, president and CEO of Hatfield, PA-based K'NEX. "The more items K'NEX & Rodon manufacture at home, the more people we can employ: it's a ripple effect. Spending our dollars on made in the U.S.A. goods enables our whole economy to get stronger and with that, our whole country becomes stronger."

The Wikki Stix Birthday Calendar turns keeping track of family and friend birthdays into a hands-on activity. $10. Wikki Stix. 800.869.4554. www.wikkistix.com

The Wikki Stix Birthday Calendar
Scented Scoops

Scented Scoops features six play ice cream balls made from cornstarch bioresin, nestled in maple wood cones. $30. BeginAgain Toys. 970.372.0522. www.beginagaintoys.com

The K'NEX 50 Model Building Set is loaded with 700 building pieces to create such structures as a sand castle, hot air balloon and more. $35. K'NEX. 800.KID. KNEX. www.knex.com

The K’NEX 50 Model Building Set
Green Toys Build-A-Bouquet

Green Toys Build-A-Bouquet helps "budding" florists assemble their own flower arrangement using pieces fashioned from recycled milk jugs. $28. Green Toys. 415.839.9971. www.greentoys.com

Kids will have a whale of a time putting together this all-wood Whale Puzzle. $14. Maple Landmark. 800.421.4223. www.maplelandmark.com


Toobalink is a toy construction system that works with paper towel tubes and toilet tissue tubes. $35. Metre Ideas and Design. 855.866.2254. www.toobalink.com

The Kitchen and Café Playset gives kids plenty of space to cook and serve pretend meals. $40. Box Creations. 216.406.1089. www.boxcreations.com

The Kitchen and Café Playset
The Original Fort

The Original Fort features a 1930s package design and contains 40 wooden building pieces. $10. Roy Toy. 800.530.0003. www.roytoy.com

Chronology is a trivia party game about putting famous events into a timeline. $30. Buffalo Games, 855.895.4290. www.buffalogames.com

Pamela BrillPamela Brill | Editor-at-Large, Gifts and Decorative Accessories

Pamela Brill, the proud mother of two young daughters, has been writing about parenting and children's products for over a decade. Before she began her freelance writing career, she served at the helm of two industry publications: Small World, which specialized in baby products, and Playthings, which is now part of Gifts & Decorative Accessories. She is currently an Editor-at-Large for Gifts & Decorative Accessories. Her previous blog postings can be viewed at www.talkingwalnut.com

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