Reporting Mike Binkley
BIG LAKE, Minn. (WCCO) — The back roads of Sherburne County are about 3,000 miles shy of the North Pole. But that’s where you’ll find another kind man in his workshop, making toys year-round.
“It’s a little shop but we get an awful lot done here,” said Mike Poisson, 67, founder of DoodleTown Toys.
The company is now in its 40th year making little wooden creations that have sold in the millions.
“We’re advertising them as little toys for little hands,” said Poisson. “They’re small, easy for kids to play with, and they’re American made.”
Poisson came up with the idea in the early 70s when he was a sales manager at Dayton’s toy department.
He started seeing American companies ship off work to China, and get cheap plastic toys in return.
“The Chinese-made ones, they were just terrible,” he said. “I mean, there were wheels off the toys in packages. So I quit my job and decided I’m going to go make toys.”
The name DoodleTown comes from the littlest toys he made out of leftover wood after finishing the larger ones.
He called them “doodles” and they turned out to be his biggest sellers.
“It was all learn by experience,” he said. “I mean, just trial and error.”
Because the toys are simple, there aren’t any small parts that come off and cause a choking hazard. No sharp edges and none of the toxic paint that we’ve seen in other toys.
“There’s a feel good component about the toys,” said Linda Poisson, Mike’s wife. “When you pick them up, you just like to touch them.”
Mike Poisson calls himself the Chief Elf on Duty. Linda’s title is COEE — Chief of Everything Else.
They have friends and neighbors working part-time to help assemble the toys.
And Mike is now into his third generation of buyers.
“My original customers are now grandparents,” he said, “so they’re buying them for their grandkids.”
He never planned to be a toymaker, but 40 years — and three million toys later — he’s glad he is.
“I just love what I do. It’s been a blessing,” he said.
DoodleTown Toys are listed among the “best classic toys” and “best green toys” on the website Doctor Toy.
They’re sold mostly at specialty shops, with some of the biggest sales on the east and west coasts.