Posted: April 11, 2013

Made in Colorado 2013: Toys

Eric Peterson

Trumark Manufacturing Co.

Boulder

www.slingshots.com

Slingshots

“We invented the wrist-braced slingshot in 1953,” says Mark Ellenburg, president of Trumark Manufacturing Co. The “we” Ellenburg is referring to is himself, his father Howard and his brother Steve. The trio used a dog collar to make the prototype on the bumper of a Willys Jeep 60 years ago.

After two decades in Nebraska, the Ellenburgs moved to Colorado. Ellenburg estimates the company has shipped about 10 million slingshots in its history.

When the slingshot industry moved offshore in the last 10 years, Trumark didn’t budge. “Our competition went to China,” says Ellenburg. “It’s come back in our favor because the quality of their slingshots has gone way down. We say, ‘Import from Colorado.’”

Trumark makes seven different models, including slingshots with fiber optic sights and The Bat. “It’ll hold a mag light so you can hunt at night,” says Ellenburg.

Distortions
Unlimited

Greeley

www.distortionsonline.com

Masks, Halloween props, animatronics

Distortions Unlimited has been a cornerstone of the Halloween industry since 1978, when Ed Edmunds famously traded his motorcycle for a barrel of latex and started making monster masks.

By the late 1980s, they were cranking out 20 masks a minute with 75 employees. (Edmunds estimates the company’s made a quarter-million masks to date.) But most mask-making moved to China in the 1990s and Distortions found it difficult to compete with cheap imports.

So Edmunds had an idea: an animatronic inmate in an electric chair for haunted houses and other dark attractions. Sales went through the roof and the company changed its focus from masks to large-scale animatronics, making gargoyles, witches, alligators and any other animatronic monster you can imagine.

Today Distortions makes most of its products in its downtown Greeley plant with a staff of about 10 employees, that jumps seasonally for the pre-Halloween crush. Ed and his wife and business partner Marsha have also entered a new stratosphere of fame after starring in two seasons of the Travel Channel reality show, “Making Monsters,” and new success in the retail market with Distortions’ Frightronics line.

“We’ve been busier than we ever have been – ever,” says Ed.

Little Colorado

Denver

www.littlecolorado.com

Kid’s furniture and playsets

Dick and Cheryl Shaw, the
respective husband-wife, CEO-president behind Little Colorado, went into the kid’s furniture and playset business after oil prices nosedived in the mid-1980s.

“We were victims of the oil bust,” says Cheryl. The couple saw a dearth of children’s furnishings between low and high-end. Little Colorado fills that gap.

After a little more than a decade in Golden, Little Colorado outgrew its facility and moved to a 44,000-square-foot building on the north side of Denver, and they’ve manufactured there since. Sensing another opportunity, the Shaws launched Colorado Commercial Woodworking in 2002, taking on such projects as cabinetry, restaurant furnishings and signage for craft breweries like Great Divide and Oskar Blues.

PLUS

Apogee Rockets

Colorado Springs

www.apogeerockets.com

Model rocketry kits

               Kits are assembled at this major model-rocket distributor.

 

BeginAgain

Fort Collins

www.beginagaintoys.com

Toys

               After selling Sprig Toys to Wham-O, David Bowen and Chris Clemmer began again with BeginAgain.

 

Burnt Mountain Crafts

Bayfield

www.rentoys.com

RenToys

               RenToys are handcrafted swords and shields largely sold at Renaissance fairs.

 

Clementine Art

Boulder

www.clementineart.com

Green art products

               Art supplies that are “simple, natural and real.”

 

Davidson LatheCraft

Colorado Springs

www.yoyospin.com

Yo-yos

               One-of-a-kind yo-yos.

Frank Coffman

Boulder

www.undeadmonsters.com

Custom gorilla suits

               Coffman custom-tailors gorilla suits to order –  and Bigfoot suits, too!

 

Funovation

Longmont

www.funovation.com

Laser mazes

               Funovation’s “Fungineers” turn rooms into mazes with lasers.

 

Liberty Puzzles

Boulder

www.libertypuzzles.com

Wood jigsaw puzzles

               No two Liberty Puzzles are alike.

 

Modular Robotics

Boulder

www.modrobotics.com

Electronic toys

               Modular Robotics’ Cubelets are Legos for the next generation.

 

PLAYTIME

Englewood

www.playtime.com

Playground equipment

               Trusted by brands such as McDonald’s, Warner Bros. and Sesame Street to make images interactive for indoor, outdoor and water play.

 

Wisdom Rides

Merino

www.wisdomrides.com

Carnival rides

               Wisdom makes a wide range of carousels and coasters near Sterling.

Denver-based writer Eric Peterson is the author of Frommer's Colorado, Frommer's Montana & Wyoming, Frommer's Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks and the Ramble series of guidebooks, featuring first-person travelogues covering everything from atomic landmarks in New Mexico to celebrity gone wrong in Hollywood. Peterson has also recently written about backpacking in Yosemite, cross-country skiing in Yellowstone and downhill skiing in Colorado for such publications as Denver's Westword and The New York Daily News. He can be reached at Eptcb126@msn.com

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Readers Respond

Eric, There are at least two long-time award winning Colorado toy manufacturers you did not mention: Fractiles (my company) and Zometool. By Beverly Johnson on 2013 04 11
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