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Gift manufacturer Ganz might not have come to be had founder Samuel Ganz not showed his two sons a doll he discovered in New York. Shortly after World War II, Ganz came to the United States from Romania and settled in New York, while his sons, Sam and Jack went to Toronto. On one of his visits to his sons, Samuel brought along a doll to show to them. Sam and Jack then showed it to a toy store, and asked if they would be interested in selling it. The store agreed, and in May 1950 the Ganz family found themselves in the toy-making business. However, they had no money, no equipment and nowhere to produce the dolls, so they borrowed money, rented a space, bought machines and fabric remnants and production soon began. Deliveries were made via streetcar.
That was then. Fifty-seven years later, Ganz has grown into an internationally recognized company, still owned and operated by the family, with Sam's son, Howard, serving as president and daughter Mindy as head of customer service. And while Ganz continues to produce toys, the company has also expanded into a number of other gift categories.
“We began transitioning to sell to gift retailers in Canada in 1983, with a gift-oriented line of plush called Heritage Collection. In 1988, we visited the New York International Gift Show for the first time with an item called Googles, which was a big hit and helped launch our American distribution,” says Howard Ganz. The company later introduced personal and social expression products, including mugs, and added home decor to the line with Bella Casa, as well as seasonal products. In 1997, Ganz added candles to the mix with the purchase of a candle company. Two years after that, personal care was introduced, and in 2002 Ganz purchased MaggiB, expanding the line even further with fashion accessories.
The company hit on something really big in April 2005, when it introduced Webkinz — which quickly became one of the hottest toys on the market. Each Webkinz comes with a secret code that is used to log into Webkinz World. Once there, children can feed and care for their Webkinz, much like caring for a real pet. By merging traditional plush with the Internet, Ganz tapped into two (previously separate) aspects of a modern child's life: play and the computer.
Soon, Webkinz had kids in a frenzy and parents in a panic trying to get their hands on one. Howard Ganz admits that he wasn't all that surprised. “We created a wonderful new line of plush toys that we loved, and as we discussed marketing approaches the team compared favorite toy experiences from their own childhoods. This helped us to create a concept that offered all of the best play factors of great toys, along with the Internet experience that reflects modern elements of play,” he explains.
But the company certainly isn't resting on Webkinz. Ganz continues to create solid product by staying on top of things. “The main challenge is to stay ahead of the curve, with regards to retailers and their needs, to changing trends in product lines, and to the way we do business ourselves, by utilizing new technologies,” Ganz says. So what more can we expect from a company that has brought us 50-plus years worth of toys and gifts? Says Ganz, “That's a secret. But stay tuned!”
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