Park City toy maker joins hall of fame
Ryan Summerlin November 29, 2011
Park City resident Arnie Rubin makes toys for a living. It’s something he’s been doing for more than 40 years.
Since 1969 when he became an original investor in the company Imperial Toys, Rubin has been building bridges between an idea for a toy and playtime. In 1987, he sold Imperial Toys to start a new toy company, Funrise Corp. which he still runs as the CEO.
Now the Toy Industry Hall of Fame has announced Rubin as their next inductee, a fact Rubin said was humbling beyond all measure.
"He’s respected by his peers and his competition," said Mattel CEO Bryan Stockton. "Arnie is a very sensitive person when it comes to understanding his consumers and what they want."
He started out working a part-time job unloading pallets of toys. Since his initial steps fresh out of high school into the toy industry, Rubin has spent a lifetime making a name for himself. From sales to CEO, Rubin knows toys.
"Arnie Rubin is one of those individuals who make the world a better place," said Carter Keithley, President of the Toy Industry Association. "Arnie has been one of the prime movers behind so many of the accomplishments of our industry: help for needy kids; global toy safety standards; the power of play to help kids grow and thrive."
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Rubin said he always considered himself more of a city mouse than a country mouse, but Park City changed all that. He traded his busy city life last year for mountain scenes and the home he built with his wife.
His office has calmed down since Los Angeles. Aside from the few stray toys scattering his personal Park City headquarters, the room looks like that of any other CEO. Rubin said there was one key difference between so many other desk jobs and his, and that was his ability to make children happy.
"It is so rewarding making people happy with the products you made," he said. "There’s never been a kid that I gave a toy to that wasn’t happy to receive it. And that’s not always true for any product."
So what is the toy-maker’s favorite toy? Rubin said that answer is simple: bubbles.
Rubin has a touch of old-school philosophy in how he makes toys. He said he always tells designers not to over-think a toy, which should be simple enough that a 5-year-old would actually play with it.
"A truck is a truck," he said. "It was the same 50 years ago that it is today."
"I can give a Tonka truck to a kid in Romania, Germany, China," Rubin added. "They will see it has four wheels and they’ll begin rolling it around on the ground. It always translates."
It may have taken a while for Rubin to create his own line of bubbles with Funrise, but it became a project he threw himself into entirely he said. He knew it would be a hit.
"I remember at a company picnic I saw some kids in a park trying to blow bubbles and it just seemed they were having a hard time," Rubin said.
Shortly after, Rubin launched his own product line for bubbles and became the top bubble company in the industry.
Rubin said there were plenty of memories to choose from over his career where he remembers making a child smile. One in particular still stands out. In early 2002, Rubin and more than 600 motorcyclists rode through the streets of Los Angeles to the Children’s Hospital with hundreds toy donations in hand. Rubin, his wife and a friend were selected to give toys to children in the cancer ward where he handed one of his company’s Tonka trucks to a sick little boy.
Moments like those were what kept Rubin in the industry so long he said.
For those who nominated Rubin, it was his work ethic that earned him the induction into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame.
"I’ve known Arnie for 10 years this upcoming May," said Mattel CEO Bryan Stockton, "and Arnie has done so much for the industry, whether as a board member or as a chairman or advisor Arnie has been unselfish in his energy and his giving to the industry in any and every way possible."