What do the following names have in common?
Hassenfeld, Hassenfeld/Block, Henson, Pressman, Klamer, Goldfarb, Parker, Ellman, Verrecchia, Weintraub, Fuhrer, Pasin, Calvin, Shure, Irwin, Nuccio, Levine, Becker, Osterhaus, Magers, Donner, Voigt, Tueber, Ryan, Daniels, Guyer, Wunderlich, Woldenberg, Herbert, Ganger, Meyers, Lennon, Killgallon, Norman, Kohner, Gray, Stark, Stebben, Burtch, Cohn, Meyer, Pillai/Chandra, Berger, Conrad, Gregory, Soehn, Clementoni, Glanz, Rudell, Disney, Falco, Steiner, Kislevitz, Friedman/Stern, Azoulai, Breuil, Bernstein, Ditomassi, Campagna/Lanham, Hendel/Petty, Lewis, Richter, Hess, Eisenberg, Mor/Lushi, Kremer, Gardner/Martin, Lifschutz, Jones, Monchik, Nyberg/Klint, Collins, Pavalek, Halitzer, Greenfield, DiPasquale, Bauer, Kravitz, Prince, Gaynor and Orbanes.
They are all families that have been a part of our toy and game industry for at least two generations – some as long as four!
I am sure there are many more.
Apart from the Mafia, there is no industry I can think of where family connections are more prevalent. Perhaps it is because we take our work home with us and involve our children. Ours are products that our children enjoy and we use their feedback. In the process, we pass our love of the business along to them. At the Toy and Game Inventor Awards Dinner last November, Ellen Hassenfeld Block told a wonderful story about how her brother Stephen and she found Mr. Potato Head parts in their father’s briefcase, early in that toy's development, and then stuck them into a summer squash. For years they thought that THEY had invented Mr. Potato Head.
I thought it would be interesting to find out what some of the scions of our toy industry families had to tell us about growing up in the industry and what they might have done if they hadn't followed their families into the business. They generously shared their thoughts below.
Alan Hassenfeld: The word child labor must have been invented by the earlier generations in the toy industry. I remember early on working on the production line at 10 or 11. I remember any number of times being in the warehouse, but my fondest memories are of being a toy tester. What would I have done if I hadn’t gone into the toy industry? It’s easy – I would have continued my tennis career and gone on to Wimbledon, or I would have continued on and became the next great American author.
Jim Pressman: Growing up with my Mother and Father both running the toy company, the company was all pervasive. Everything and all conversations seemed to revolve around it. However, I never considered it as something I would do. How wrong I was. I did feel special when we took our elementary school class trips to visit the factory in Brooklyn. And,of course, birthday presents for my fellow classmates was never a problem!
Martin Goldfarb: It was great growing up in the toy business -getting to play with a lot of terrific toys and games before they made it to market and some that never made it to market. With my family's genes, I would have ended up in another job that rewarded creative thinking if not toys and games.
Richie Weintraub: My earliest memories include going to the factory with my grandfather, Abe Katz, on weekends to see the injection molding machines at Ideal Toy Company. Those machines looked very big to a 3 year old. My dad, Lionel Weintraub, continued this tradition with my brother and me. We were loading trucks and inspecting toys by the age of 14. I worked with people who cared about what I learned. They cared about me because my dad and grandfather cared about them. They taught me that taking an interest in your people was key to getting great results. We had many hit toys during my career, but more importantly, we had many good friends.
David Fuhrer: Although independent, sharing our industry with my brother and dad makes business more enjoyable. We've been able to spend quality time throughout the world, share friendships and common interests. While I have had to work hard and pave my own way, it was made easier by my dad's great reputation. If not the toy industry, I would have likely been working in TV/film.
Bob Fuhrer: My dad worked for Matchbox, Topper Toys, Damon Corp (Estes Rockets), Arrow Handicrafts and Hi-Flier Kites. My brother David and I made the package cover for the Matchbox Motorway. During his days at Topper, I was infatuated with the “Johnny” brand - particularly the Johnny Seven gun and Secret Sam spy briefcase. I created products that “couldn’t miss” and my idea “The Missile Toe” was eventually made by Estes. Sales were not impressive.
Matt Nuccio: Back when my father worked at HG Toys, I'd come in on some Saturdays. They were the king of licensed dress up - CHIPS, Dukes of Hazard, He Man, etc. I played with everything, sketched toy ideas and built prototypes and they used me as a packaging model on occassion. Perhaps I could have been a model.
Leah Osterhaus: My father and I entered the toy industry at the same time. He as a publisher of board games, and me as a 16 year old Toys R Us cashier. That same year I worked Toy Fair and Spiel. It was like visiting Disneyland and getting your business degree rolled into one.
Carle Wunderlich: I am the third generation of four. My father and grandfather ran a chain of hardware and discount stores. I started as a buyer in 1980, then a rep and in 1998 started a distribution company, Best of Best Toys. My youngest son, Barry, has just joined us as a salesman after working in the warehouse making it the fourth generation. 2010 was my 30th Toy Fair and his first!
Martin Killgallon: I am the third generation at Ohio Art. My grandfather started in 1955, my Uncle Bill in 1969 and father (Larry) in 1978. As a child, one of the coolest benefits was testing protoypes. A lot of characters stopped by to pitch their ideas. Some were spectacular and others were not; but no matter how good or bad, I was always impressed by their creativity and passion. The key to maintaining balance between family and business is to treat each other with respect and leave the business at the office. Ohio Art is fortunate to be entering its 103rd year and one of the keys to our longevity is that we are a family oriented company.
My 14 year old son tells me he would like to be part of my business one day – after he becomes a successful sportscaster. I am not sure what the future holds, but I would certainly be delighted to welcome him.
(Pictures: Photo 1 - Sylvia Hassenfeld, Alan Hassenfeld, Ellen Hassenfeld Block and Susie Block Casden. Photo 2 - Richie Weintraub with Mary Hartline. Photo 3 - David, Len and Bob Fuhrer. Photo 4 - Matt Nuccio as a child on the box of a Dukes of Hazzard toy.)