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A Real Toy Story

He's Got The Gift

Thirty-four years ago, Russ Berrie put together a little collection of products and took it to stores to see what might sell. He kept the winners, ditched the losers, and then he regrouped. Thirty-four years and billions of dollars later, he's still at it.

The players have changed, of course. Even today, Berrie's traditional base of greeting card stores, florists, gift shops and pharmacies is expanding to include home d├ęcor shops, department stores, craft shops and garden stores. The company's mix of products is in constant flux. Employees come and go. Opportunities arise, run their course, and give way to new opportunities.

But Berrie just keeps swinging. Though he tries to spend as much time as possible with his six children and his wife, Angelica, he usually works seven days a week. "I take time off on Sundays to watch the Giants lose," he says. But work is his major source of fun. And Berrie wants to keep playing.

"I hope when I'm 92 years old, I'll be on the floor of the Jacob Javits Convention Center doing a trade show and writing orders for customers," Berrie says. As long as there's a market, Russ Berrie will have the gift.

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This article was originally published in the September 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: A Real Toy Story.

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