By Mackenzie Hurlbert
What toy carries more memories and nostalgia than a stuffed teddy bear? BJ Toy Company offers diverse stuffed animal, novelty, and holiday product lines ranging from stuffed manatees to prairie dogs. With a dedication to providing excellent plush toys at an affordable price, BJ Toy Company supplies theme parks, gift shops, carnivals, and more with plush animals.
Established in 1975, BJ Toy Company continues a historical line of toy production in Pen Argyl, Pennsylvania. “The little town that we are based in, Pen Argyl, has had a stuffed toy company since the early 1930’s,” said Joe Antonioli of BJ Toy. “Robert Antonioli, our owner and founder, worked for R&R Toy beginning in 1958.”
Sam and Ruth Ravitz, the owners of R&R, passed all of their knowledge onto Robert. “In turn,” said Antonioli, “they learned the trade at Ideal Toy and Novelty, the manufacturers of the original Teddy Bear. In the early 1970’s, R&R closed its doors. At that point, Robert decided to open a stuffed toy company for himself with a partner. BJ Toy was born in 1975 in the same factory that R&R previously occupied.”
The business has stayed in the family since. Joe Antonioli and his sisters grew up working on the production floor and in the shipping department and office. Joe continues to run the business today.
BJ Toy Company produces an array of stuffed animals, but of course, some are more popular than others. “We have a large and diverse line, but the big cats, like lions, tigers, and leopards, have always been among our strongest performers,” noted Antonioli. “However, black bears, river otters, and prairie dogs are particularly good sellers as well.”
When it comes to scoping out trends in the marketplace, “the tastes and trends of the market place are changing faster than ever. Keeping up with those are a challenge, but it is always interesting,” Antonioli added. “Kids’ tastes trend to technology more than ever, so ‘cute’ is key.” Antonioli also said bright colors and soft materials are more important than ever to make products stand out, and even natural items need a little artistic license to give them the “WOW!” factor.
BJ Toy’s goals are and always have been product and customer service oriented. “Our core goals have never changed. From the beginning, it has always been a priority to provide high quality items partnered with the very best customer service possible. “
All in all, Antonioli said the future of his business rests in others’ hands, and very small hands, at that. “Kids are the future for stuffed animals,” he said. “Keeping kids engaged in our product is the whole point of what we do. That will never change.”