Originally created 06/02/06

Augusta company buys bit of history



Flexible Flyer has about 107 years on The Tomberlin Group - a lot of time to penetrate the bike and trike market.

So when the historic toy company went on the auction block, The Tomberlin Group snatched up the intellectual property rights of the company and the rights to use its recognizable logo.

"It's neat to be able to purchase a company with a history going to back to 1889," said Mike Tomberlin, the CEO of the Augusta company. "It certainly has more name recognition than Tomberlin."

The Tomberlin Group has manufactured bicycles and tricycles for the West Point, Miss.-based company for the past four years and purchased the rights in April, after Flexible Flyer filed for bankruptcy.

Other companies bought the rights to Flexible Flyer's swing sets and sleds, the latter of which was its best-known product line.

The Tomberlin Group, which employs fewer than 100 people in the U.S., contracts the bulk of its manufacturing to plants in South Korea, Taiwan and China. Its existing product line includes all-terrain vehicles, go-karts and jogging strollers. Its brands include Montana Classic Toys and BearRiver.

The Tomberlin Group also operates Asian Ventures Inc., a business consulting firm that helps match companies with manufacturers, suppliers and overseas marketers.

Flexible Flyer only will account for about 2 percent of the company's total business, Mr. Tomberlin said.

Even so, the antique brand will help The Tomberlin Group, which is only 10 years old, improve its marketability.

"Retro is coming back so it's good to have an old, retro name," he said.

Flexible Flyer products are sold through big-box retailers such as Wal-Mart and Costco, and those relationships likely will continue when The Tomberlin Group gears up its product line.

The company is to begin selling Flexible Flyer vehicles in the first quarter of 2007, Mr. Tomberlin said.

Reach Tony Lombardo at (706) 823-3227 or tony.lombardo@augustachronicle.com.

FLEXIBLE FLYER HISTORY

Flexible Flyer, founded in 1889, started with a twin-runner sled invented by Samuel Leeds Allen, who wanted to diversify from farm equipment manufacturing.

In the past 107 years, Flexible Flyer expanded its product line to include wagons, tricyles, bicycles and swing set equipment. The West Point, Miss.-based company recently filed for bankruptcy and sold off the rights to those products.


Source: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office