BANGOR, Maine — When Robbins Lumber Inc. president Jim Robbins heard about last year’s recalls on lead paint-containing toys from China, his Yankee ingenuity took hold of him — and so did his grandfatherly instincts.
“I didn’t want my grandkids using toys that were unsafe,” said Robbins, who has seven grandchildren ages 1 to 9. “I thought, ‘I can make toys that are better and safer than that stuff. I’ve got woodworkers. Let’s try making toys.’”
A year later, the Searsmont-based lumber company rolled out the newest addition to its product line: the Ultimate Spinner, a board game created by Patric Santerre of Portland-based Arcadia Design Works and manufactured by Robbins Toy, the new toy-making division of Robbins Lumber.
“It’s made in Maine by Maine people, it’s environmentally friendly, and it’s safe, fun and educational for kids,” Robbins said Friday as he presented his new product at The Mad Hatter, a children’s clothing and accessory store in Bangor. “Those are things we’re really committed to.”
Everything about the Ultimate Spinner is Maine-made. It features a sturdy base and hand-shaped spinning pointer made of recycled eastern white pine, cut and painted at the Robbins Lumber plant, where they also make everything from dartboards to clothes-drying racks. The box and paper elements to the game are made by J.S. McCarthy Printers in Augusta.
What’s unique about the game is that it’s actually 12 games in one — players place one of six two-sided activity discs on the base of the spinner. Each side features a different game — from “Do a Dance,” in which players spin the spinner and do whichever dance the pointer lands on, to baseball- and bowling-themed games that can be played both indoors and out.
It’s versatile enough to accommodate anywhere from two to eight players — and it can be as hard or simple as you want, making it appropriate for 4-year-olds or for middle-schoolers. Mad Hatter owner Harmony Allen played the spelling game with her 11-year-old son, Chase, and both found it engaging and fun.
“What’s great is that it’s educational, but kids don’t feel like it’s work. It’s fun. They use their imaginations and gain skills in everything from math to spelling,” said Allen. “Also, for me as the owner of a children’s business, so many of my customers are looking for things that are both locally made and safe for their kids. There just aren’t a lot of kids’ toys or accessories that are made in Maine, so this is perfect for that.”
So far, the game is available only in Maine stores, including the Mad Hatter, Hamilton Marine in Searsport, All About Games in Belfast, Tree Top Toys in Portland and Linscott’s in Washington — but in the coming months Robbins plans to distribute the game nationally.
“We’re also committed to supporting locally owned businesses and entrepreneurs,” said Robbins, whose great-grandfather founded Robbins Lumber back in 1881. “We’ll sell the game in mom and pop stores around the country, not at Wal-Mart.”
Robbins Toy’s next product is a beanbag toss game called Lob a Lobstah, which features lobster-shaped bags filled with Aroostook County mustard seeds, and a target made of eastern white pine and real lobster trap netting.
Both Lob a Lobstah and the Ultimate Spinner are available online at www.robbinstoy.com. The Ultimate Spinner retails for $69.95, which, according to Robbins, is a real bargain.
“I think it works out to be about $6 per game, since there are 12 games in it,” he said. “Not a bad deal.”