First Slinky, now Shrinky Dinks. What will toy and games investment firm Alex Brands buy next?
Shrinky Dinks — an iconic plastic toy and craft — has been sold to Alex Brands, less than three years after the firm bought Poof-Slinky, maker of Slinky spring toys.
Fairfield, N.J.-based Alex Brands is declining to identify the seller of Shrinky Dinks, which is based in North Lake, Wis. Alex is a unit of Greenwich, Conn.-based private equity firm Propel Equity Partners LLC, which has acquired several toy brands since 2012.
Shrinky Dinks “is a great brand with a long history,” Alex executive vice president Andy Bailen said in a Dec. 19 phone interview. “These products are proven sellers.” The two firms already have worked together for several years.
According to Bailen, Shrinky Dinks sell into “a pretty even mix” of toy and craft markets. They also sell to adult crafters via websites such as Etsy and Pinterest.
As of 2008, Shrinky Dinks and K&B Innovations Inc. — the North Lake firm that processes the polystyrene sheet that Shrinky Dinks are made from — were owned by Betty Morris. Morris co-founded the firm in 1973 with Kathryn Bloomberg, who is no longer involved with the company.
At the time, Morris and Bloomberg were at-home moms looking for a craft project for their local Cub Scouts. They saw the idea in a magazine and later commercialized it.
Shrinky Dinks start out as PS sheets which can be cut and colored before heated in an oven, where the sheets shrink and harden. Shrinky Dinks products have featured well-known characters from cartoons or animation. Current kits include such characters as Barbie, Spider-Man and Elf on the Shelf.
Morris had been looking to sell the company since at least 2008, when she said in an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that she was seeking a buyer. In its 41-year history, Shrinky Dinks has been licensed by several firms, including Colorforms, Milton Bradley and Golden Books publisher Western Publishing. Since 1998, K&B has licensed the product to several different toy and craft firms.
K&B operates a six-person staff in North Lake. In 2008, Morris estimated that Shrinky Dinks sales had totaled $150 million in their first 35 years. Officials with Shrinky Dinks could not be reached for comment.
In a news release announcing the deal, Alex Brands President and CEO Neil Friedman said that buying the Shrinky Dinks business “is a great opportunity to add yet another iconic toy brand to our roster, and advance our mission of encouraging active play and fostering creativity and imagination.”