I’m a huge fan of old fashioned toys and if they’re made in the USA – all the better! One of my favorites are log building kits made by a company called Roy Toy located in East Machias, Maine. I don’t usually devote an entire column to one business but I’m making an exception because it’s that time of year when we’re all thinking about children and toys and Santa (I still believe).What makes this company so unique is that they’ve been around since the 1930’s and their toys have been enjoyed by many generations!
The history of Roy Toy is one of quality, pride and family. According to their website, “Roy Toy was established in the mid 1930's by one of the earliest pioneers in the wooden toy industry, Roy K. Dennison. Roy realized that there was an intriguing love for wooden construction sets, and that this excitement was had by both children and their parents.
Roy would often say, "There's no greater feeling for a parent than helping their child explore their own imagination". This became the inspiration for his classic log building designs. For these challenging sets, Roy used unique rectangular shaped logs with a tight notching fit leading to structures that wouldn't topple easily. The logs were hand-cut and honed to a realistic finish.”
Imagine the business challenges Roy had that we don’t have today – starting with shipping the product. There was no UPS or Fed Ex or USPS. When Roy shipped toys to customers he would pack the kits up in wooden crates, load them on to the back of horse drawn wagons and head to the train station in Machias. Eventually they would find their way to the customer. There was no such thing as overnight shipping in those days!
Today the company is run by the third generation fo Dennisons and although they’ve modernized in many ways – they remain true to the original product. In fact Roy Toy still hand cuts their sets from pine logs and stains them with a non-toxic dye, creating the same bright red wooden gables and traditional green wooden roof planks as originally designed and their most popular set comes in a package design from the 30’s.
This company has been through ups and downs through out the last 7o years. Their business struggled when cheap toys made overseas were popular. Their business boomed when consumers learned of the hazards of lead paint on some toys made overseas. They have learned to ride through the ups and downs by staying true to their commitment to bring smiles to children and parents alike especially on Christmas morning!
You can find Roy Toy log building kits at LL Bean and other toy retailers and on line at www.roytoy.com