The Super Duper Kids Toy

Plumbing The Origins Of Omagles

Posted on: April 13, 2012


December 26, 1988|By Pamela Sherrod.

Clyde Beimfohr and Robert Egizii were partners on a construction project in Missouri when they toyed with the idea of a construction kit for children. The toy kit that the two electrical contractors helped to get off the ground is Omagles, manufactured by Developmental Playcraft Inc. in

Springfield, Ill. Designed for children 3 and older, Omagles has received recognition from Parent`s Choice, a nonprofit parents group, as one of the best toys of 1988.

Omagles got its start where some people do some of their best thinking-in the bathroom.

Beimfohr, who heads Rite Electric Co. in Granite City, Ill., and Egizii, president of Egizii Electric Co. in Springfield, said the idea for the construction kit occurred when Jeff Weber, an airline pilot, installed a new bathroom in his home.

“There was a third party who came up with the idea and presented it to us,“ said Beimfohr, 60. Weber`s “children were playing with pieces of plastic fittings while he was doing a plumbing job in the bathroom,“ said Beimfohr. “He was enthralled with the idea that the kids occupied themselves this way. It became a babysitter for them while he worked on the plumbing.“

Beimfohr said Weber presented his idea in the form of a business plan, but underestimated the financing that was needed. “He had the figures in the ballpark of $7,500 and $10,000,“ said Beimfohr. “More research was needed. Being a gambler, as you have to be in the contracting business, $1 million later we had Omagles.“

Developmental Playcraft was formed in 1983 to make Omagles. There are six other investors in the company.

The other investors, like Egizii and Beimfohr, have little experience in the toy business. They are Dan Mutmann, chief financial officer of Egizii;

Joseph Nicoud, an insurance executive; Dr. Robert McGann, a heart surgeon; Dr. William Coughlin, who`s in general practice; and Steven Taggy and Patrick Reilly, both attorneys. Weber, the airline pilot, is no longer with Developmental Playcraft.

“Clyde and I had talked about getting into some form of manufacturing,“ said Egizii, who also has interests in real estate and construction. “Toys seemed about as good as anything. We liked the pilot`s idea, brought in the other investors and saw it through.“

Just as the investors in Developmental Playcraft differ in their professions and backgrounds, so does Omagles in the many sides and angles the toy pieces can be arranged.

Omagles, which differs from most toys of the `80s, is a return to the old-fashioned way of playing because it needs only the child`s hands and imagination. No batteries or tools required here.

Omagles offers four different construction kits, which range in price from $75 to $170. The smallest toy kit has 118 pieces for building some 26 toys. The largest kit has 333 pieces and builds some 46 toys.

Playskool`s Pipeworks toy, distributed by Hasbro Inc., based in Pawtucket, R.I., is Omagles` closest competitor. Omagles differs from Pipeworks in that it doesn`t require tools to assemble the pieces.

“Omagles is a good concept,“ said Ruth B. Roufberg, an editor of Children Magazine. “It doesn`t do anything itself. It takes the child`s imagination to bring it to life. The attachments are easy to put together and easy to separate. It`s the kind of thing that extends a child`s attention span because the toy keeps changing as the child plays.

“The kind of toy a child likes is the kind that they look at and know what to do with.“

Joyce Combs, president of Developmental Playcraft, said children can sit down and play with the toy with little or no instruction.

“The pieces provide a friction fit that slides through a series of holes in each of the pipe fittings,“ said Combs. “The kit comes in high-impact colors such as fire engine red, royal blue, bright green and yellow. The children may not be able to say all the colors by name but they recognize the similarities. Sometimes they get some pretty abstract ideas when playing.“

Egizii said Developmental Playcraft employs between 10 and 25 people

(depending on the season), and subcontracts some of its packaging jobs to Goodwill Industries.

“We also use different vendors to do the blow molding and injection molding that`s part of the process to make the pieces that go in the kits,“

said Beimfohr.

Although Omagles was developed five years ago, Roufberg said she first saw the toy at a 1987 toy fair.

“There was just one individual there in the corner of a showroom,“ said Roufberg. “I could see the potential in the toy but also realized the toy needed to be better marketed.“

Century Products Inc., based in Macedonia, Ohio, remedied the toy`s marketing problems.

“Developmental Playcraft had marketed the product for several years,“

said Roger Faulb, Century`s vice president of new market development. “What we added when we came into the project in 1987 was to make it more retail-oriented.“

The first big retailer to see Omagles` potential was Chicago-based Sears, Roebuck & Co. Others selling it are J.C. Penney Co., Wholesale Club and Best Products Co.

“There`s been strong interest in Omagles in Europe, Australia, Japan, South Africa and Israel,“ said Faulb. “They are interested in buying the product or taking out a licensing agreement to make it.“

“The toy business has been a real switch for us,“ said Beimfohr. “The major difference between toy manufacturing and contracting, besides the obvious, is in contracting we operate in a few states close to home. In the toy business we`re in a whirlwind marketing situation that`s done locally, nationally and internationally.“

“I`ll just say the toy business is different,“ Egizii said.

Said Egizii: “Omagles will be our flagship product. We`re looking into some other areas and hope to expand.“


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