The American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) honors the memory of toy industry veteran and founder of International Playthings Ted Kiesewetter, who passed away on May 24, 2019.
Kiesewetter came into the toy industry in the late 1960s when, in his own words, “there was very little interest in quality developmental toys.” He was instrumental in driving the development of specialty play products with high play value as an alternative to mass market toys, and the channels needed to get them in the hands of children. He is also responsible for introducing such classic toy brands as Ravensburger, Quercetti, and Viking to the U.S. market and reintroduced Calico Critters into the specialty toy market.
“Thanks to his long toy career, most of it at the helm of International Playthings (now Epoch Everlasting Play)—there isn’t much about the emergence of the specialty toy industry that Kiesewetter didn’t help to create and witness firsthand,” said Kimberly Mosley, president of ASTRA, in a statement. “He was truly a giant in our industry and his sensible, thoughtful voice as one of our go-to elder statesmen will be missed.”
Kiesewetter was committed to the specialty toy market. He was an early supporter of ASTRA and a co-founder of Playing for Keeps (now an initiative of the Association of Children’s Museums), which promoted healthy children’s play with products that focus on the features of the child’s play rather than the features of the toy. He was the recipient of ASTRA’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014.
He said of the award, “I have been fortunate to receive a number of awards in my career, but I cannot think of another organization I am so honored to get an award from, because this award is given with sincerity, an emotional attachment to a recipient the organization has known for many years, and no ulterior motives. That reflects ASTRA’s integrity and true commitment to its mission.”
Kiesewetter’s recent thoughts on the future of the specialty toy industry will no doubt resonate for many years to come. First was his reminder to keep up with the way customers are living their lives.
“The most important ingredient in our industry is being in the moment,” he said.
Second, he emphasized the critical importance of channel relationships: “It’s important to visit your key accounts and put in some face-to-face time to build strong relationships.” Third, he recommended that manufacturers and retailers grow their expertise about how play helps kids develop. “Healthy play,” he said, “is a valuable platform for selling toys. It helps business and it helps kids. Use it.”
Kiesewetter retired from the toy industry in 2006, following the sale of the company to Grand Toys International. The business was later bought by Epoch Co., the parent company to Epoch Everlasting Play. He is survived by his wife, Laura, and daughters, Jackie and Anita.