about astra

Board Officers & Directors

Officers


Dee Farrell, CPE / 2020 (Manufacturer)
Chair
Ann Williams

Software or toys, which one sounds more fun? Well, Dee says toys!

Dee has been a successful Sales & Marketing executive for the past 30 years in big and small companies.

Before Ann Williams she was Senior Vice President of Neat-Oh! International. She also held the position of Director in the Office of President at a global enterprise software vendor where she was responsible for corporate strategy initiatives and measuring the company’s sales & marketing performance.

Throughout the years, she built trusted relationships with large, retailers and formed long-term partnerships with Fortune 500 companies.

Ever since then, trust-based, long-term relationship are values Dee strongly believes in. And of course, she has brought them into Neat-Oh!, not only integrating it to the company’s strategy but also ensuring the company puts those values in to practice.

There is no match to the love and care that she has been dedicating her customers. As recognition of her achievements, Dee was invited to be member of the ASTRA board in 2014. ASTRA (American Specialty Toy Retailer Association) is a non-profit association that provides resources to grow the specialty toy industry. Serving for ASTRA, Dee contributes to finding innovative ways in which all small businesses can successfully navigate the rapidly changing way consumers look for and buy toys.

Dee holds an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and a Bachelor of Music Performance from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.

Contact Dee:
784 Industrial Ct
Ste 303
Bloomfield Hills, MI 48302
(847) 331-9556 Phone
 


Erik Quam, CPE / 2019 (Manufacturer)
Outgoing Chair
Fat Brain Toy Co

Erik Quam has been fortunate enough to work in the specialty toy industry since 1997 and even more fortunate to serve in the position of Director of Product Development at Fat Brain Toy Co. since 2009. During his tenure with Fat Brain Toy Co., Erik has helped bring more than fifty items to the specialty toy market, including such hits as Tobbles Neo, Squigz, Peek-a-Doodle Doo and Teeter Popper (all winners of ASTRA's Best Toys for Kids). Erik feels fortunate to be surrounded by a group of incredibly talented and driven individuals who truly make coming to work each day a great adventure.

With an extensive background in mail order catalog, merchandising, brand management and product development, Erik brings many unique perspectives and a great contribution to ASTRA's Board of Directors.

People often ask Erik how he got into the toy industry. His answer? "I was an out of work actor who was lucky enough to find a temp job that became a passion." Erik holds a Bachelor of Science degree in both Theatre Arts and Broadcast Journalism from the University of Wisconsin and a Master of Fine Arts in Acting/Musical Theatre from Minnesota State University in Mankato.

A native Wisconsinite (Door County), Erik and his wife Sara lived in the Twin Cities for several years before relocating to Omaha in 2010. Erik and Sara are the proud parents of five daughters, Eva, Beatrice, Matilda, Olive and Willa, who serve as a constant reminder of the importance of creating purposeful toys which provide a foundation for lifelong discovery and curiosity.

Contact Erik:
20516 Nicholas Cir
Elkhorn, NE 68022
(800) 335-5621 ext. 308 Phone
(402) 779-3253 Fax
 


Christine Blumberg, CPE / 2021 (Sales Rep)
Incoming Chair
Roberts Blumberg Giacobbe

Ever since leaving college, Christine Blumberg always wanted to work in children's products. She moved to California and landed a job at Walt Disney Records working on packaging, pricing and promotions. She loved living in Los Angeles and working at Disney was a dream come true.

After working at Disney for over five years, Christine accepted a job as Director of Marketing for Jim Henson Productions in New York City. Within three years, Disney called her back and asked if she wanted to accept a position in sales back with Walt Disney Records. This was her first sales job!

After working at Disney, Christine went to work at Ravensburger. Ravensburger was a different challenge for her - specialty sales. This is where Christine got her first exposure to the world of sales representatives and independent toy stores. After working at Ravensburger, Christine’s husband, Alan Blumberg and her brother, Jeff Roberts, started a rep group in 2000.

They have now been selling to independent toy and gift accounts in New England for over fifteen years. Their relationships with both vendors and accounts are invaluable to them. Christine, Alan and Jeff have made lifelong friends and feel that they bring a tremendous service to their accounts.

Contact Christine:
Roberts Blumberg Corporation
451 Goose Ln
Guilford, CT 06437
(203) 453-9515 Phone
(203) 453-9074 Fax
 


Kevin McGrath / 2020 (Manufacturer)
Treasurer
The Original Toy Company

Kevin has spent close to 30 years in the specialty toy business. As the former president of the James Galt Company Inc. (Galt Toys), in 1997 he founded the specialty toy company Galt America which in 2008 became The Original Toy Company - founded by Kevin and his wife Susan. Kevin has truly been a die-hard supporter an advocate for the specialty toy trade and industry all of his business career within the toy industry.

He has been active with ASTRA since its original foundation and creation and has been specialty supporter and friend to his sales representatives and retail customers throughout the years. Kevin has been quoted to say many times: "We are all living in an ever-changing retail world; if we are to survive we all must work together to secure, support an build an industry that will offer a secure future for all those who work and make a living within the specialty toy trade.''

Contact Kevin:
230 Woodmont Rd
Milford, CT 06460
(800) 899-4258 Phone
 


Amy Saldanha, CPE, CMR / 2020 (Retailer)
Secretary
kiddywampus

Amy is founder and CEO of kiddywampus, a specialty toy retailer and destination for families in the Twin Cities. Prior to founding and running kiddywampus in 2006, Amy practiced law as a civil litigator in Chicago, followed by stints in operations and talent management at several digital start-ups. Amy graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College with a bachelor's degree in political science and speech communications. She also holds a social sciences degree in political philosophy from the University of Kent in Canterbury, England. She earned her JD from Valparaiso School of Law. Amy also serves on the Board of Trustees at The Blake School, and the Boards of ResourceWest and Hopkins Business & Civic Association.

She and her husband, Kenneth, have three children, all of whom are active at kiddywampus.

Contact Amy:
1023 Mainstreet
Hopkins, MN 55343
(952) 926-7871 Phone
 

Directors


 

Nicole Bortnick, CPE / 2019 (Sales Rep)
BGN Sales

Nicole has been in the toy industry for 14 years and a member of ASTRA for eight years. As an ASTRA member, Nicole has served on the Marketplace & Academy Planning Committee. She is a member of souvenir, gift and camp associations in the Wisconsin region.

Nicole’s business honors include recognition for top sales by various vendors over the years.

In her free time, she enjoys taking her dog to the beach and escaping to Michigan in the summer. She also enjoys photography, art, good food and wine, and visiting friends and family in Canada.

Contact Nicole:

2514 W. Armitage #211
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 235-0893 Phone


Cynthia Compton, CPE / 2019 (Retailer)
4 Kids Books and Toys

Cynthia has been in the toy industry for 13 years and an ASTRA member for eight years. As an ASTRA member, Cynthia has served on the Best Toys for Kids Committee, the Education Committee that planned the recently launched Certified Master Retailer program, and participated in an online focus group that provided feedback and input in preparation for the most recent strategic plan.

Cynthia is a past board member and president of Network of Women in Business and the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association. In addition, she is a member of the Indiana Bulldog Rescue, Carmel Chamber of Commerce, Indiana Retail Council, American Booksellers Association and the Association of Booksellers for Children.

Cynthia started 4 Kids after the birth of her fourth child and out of a desire to own a business in her community. 4 Kids Books and Toys’ business honors include recognition as the 2014 Pannell Award for the best children’s bookstore (recognized nationally the Women’s National Book Association), “Best Of” awards in the Indianapolis community, and several awards from area nonprofits and literacy organizations.

Contact Cynthia:
4450 Weston Pointe Dr
Zionsville, IN 46077
(317) 733-8710 Phone
 


Damien Crocker / 2019 (Manufacturer)
HABA USA

As an ASTRA member, Damien has served on the Marketplace & Academy Planning Committee, including acting as Chair of the Breakout Session Sub-Committee and a member of the Keynote and Game & Kit Session Sub-Committees. In addition, he has acted as Chair of the Excellence Awards Committee. Damien was also selected to participate in the recent millennial focus group in Chicago. As both a millennial and a Canadian, Damien hopes to bring a unique perspective to the table.

Damien is a Sales Manager at HABA USA. Prior to HABA he worked for Orb Factory. Business honors for The Orb Factory include recognition as the 2011 Toy Collection Vendor of the Year, 2011 ASTRA Manufacturer Excellence Award, 2011 ASTRA Best Toys for Kids (Creative Play), 2013 ASTRA Best Toys for Kids (Just for Fun) and 2015 ASTRA Best Toys for Kids (Creative Play).

In his free time, Damien enjoys live music, camping, outdoor activities of all varieties, and, of course, playing with toys.

Contact Damien:
266 Pockwock Rd
Skaneateles, NY 13152
(902) 401-1276 Phone
 


Anita Demetropoulos, CPE / 2019 (Retailer)
Island Treasure Toys

Anita has been in the toy industry for 14 years and an ASTRA member for three years. Anita is also a member of the Yarmouth Economic Development Advisory Board, the Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce Board, and the Main Street Bath Board. She has also served as co-Chair of Circus Smirkus Freeport for eight years and has been the Chair of the North Yarmouth Academy Annual Fundraising Soiree for three years.

Anita opened Island Treasure Toys after having a difficult time finding high quality specialty toys in her area. Island Treasure Toys’ business honors include the 2005 Beacon Award from Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce, 2015 Best Toys Store Award from Down East Mag and Best Specialty Store in Yarmouth.

In her free time, Anita enjoys the solitude of Littlejohn Island where she lives and spending time with her family at home or on adventurous trips.

Contact Anita:
805 Rte One
Yarmouth, ME 04096
(207) 846-6565 Phone
 


Tami Murphy / 2019 (Manufacturer)
Grand Prix International, Inc

Tami has been in the toy industry for ten years and a member of ASTRA for seven years. As an ASTRA member, Tami served as Chair of the Marketplace & Academy Planning Committee and participated on multiple subcommittees under the Planning Committee, including the Breakout Session Sub-Committee. In addition to her volunteer work with ASTRA, Tami also serves as co-Chair of the New England chapter of Women in Toys.

Tami is the Director, Business Development Services at Grand Prix Internationa. Prior to that she was the National Sales Manager of The Haywire Group. She volunteers her time to a local non-profit organization that The Haywire Group supports that provides services to foster children that the state doesn't fund. In 2016, Tami was nominated for a Women In Toys' Wonder Woman award and The Haywire Group received its second Toy of The Year nomination from TIA.

In her free time, Tami enjoys reading and spending time with her kids.

Contact Tami:
PO Box 51083
Springfield, MA 01151
(413) 543-8887 Phone
 


Melissa Pia Bossola Beese, CPE / 2021 (Retailer)
Little Pnuts

Melissa fell into the toy industry six years ago quite by accident. With the birth of their first child, she was forced to learn very quickly how important play was for the development of her four-month-premature child. Through three years of continuous therapy for her son and focusing on helping him overcome his developmental delays, her real passion for quality toys and learning through play began.

This passion lead to the launch of Little Pnuts, an award-winning international toy subscription program focused on developmental milestones in 2012 and quickly followed with opening the award-winning Little Pnuts Toy Shoppe in 2015. In 2016, Melissa completed her Certification as a Play Expert. She is focused on educating parents about the importance of play for the development of their growing children and how high-quality toys genuinely are the tools to help children thrive in today’s world by allowing them to use their imagination and creativity.

Melissa has a degree in both Graphic Design & Photography and her career includes working as a marketing associate and advertising director. Melissa lives in New Orleans, with her husband Stefan and their two boys, Tristan and Finn and their fur baby, Loki. She loves going to festivals, playing music loudly, collecting tikis from around the world, drinking tiki cocktails and working towards her foodie degree.

Contact Melissa:
5701 Bancroft Dr
New Orleans, LA 70122
(818) 384-8275 Phone
 


Betty Skoke Burns / 2021 (Retailer)
Angellina's Toy Boutique

Betty Burns is the founder and creative director of Angellina's Toy & Children’s Boutique which is located in majestic Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada. Angellina's is an award winning children's boutique that had been delighting children of all ages, in the land of the midnight sun, for 11 years.

Betty holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, Bachelor of Education, and a Masters of Education in Curriculum and Instruction. She is passionate about creativity, imagination, making and learning in experiential and purposeful play environments. Betty is especially interested in differentiated learning experiences with a focus on engagement or flow; the feeling of spontaneous joy while wholeheartedly performing a task or activity.

Over the last 17 years, Betty has been working as an elementary school teacher, teaching everything from Kindergarten to Grade Seven. She has instructed various College & University courses in Early Childhood Education and Teacher Education Programs, and has mentored pre-service teachers. Betty is currently employed by the Yukon Government as the Primary Curriculum Consultant for Yukon Department of Education.

Angellina's Toy Boutique was founded on a dream and built on a philosophy of education. Betty attributes her business successes to the example of her hardworking grandparents Alex and Betty Skoke, with whom she spent much of her childhood working and playing in their family run business in Stellarton, Nova Scotia. It was here that her work-ethic, problem-solving skills, and the importance of the customer relationship was nurtured.

Together with her husband Damien, she has three beautiful daughters; Angellina, Ave Maria, and Stella Maris- who are her everything. Betty loves to dream, create, problem-solve, dance, run, and travel. Everyday she marvels at the wonder and awe of childhood. .

Contact Betty:
101-100 Main Street3
Whitehorse, YT Y1A 5Z9, CA
867) 393-4488 Phone
 


Jacqueline Killian / 2021 (Retailer)
Beyond the Blackboard

Jacque comes to the ASTRA board with more than 25 years working in the fields of education and play. She started out with a focus on making a difference in children's lives in the classroom, co-founding an expeditionary learning charter school and serving two terms on her local school board.

She eventually branched out into the retail world when Jacque and her sister, Jean, opened their first store, Beyond the Blackboard, in 2004 to meet the needs of local teachers and families. They currently operate two brick and mortar locations and are continuing to work on their online presence.

Jacque and her husband, Brian, have three great daughters who love to play! Their daughters have grown up working in the stores and the oldest, Carah, currently manages their retail operations. When Jacque is not working, you will find her enjoying the beautiful mountains of Colorado. She also enjoys hanging out with her friends, Taco Tuesdays, Sunday Supper and yoga!

Contact Jacqueline:
6155 S. Main St.
Aurora, CO 80016
(303) 422-5151 Phone
 


Nick Tarzia / 2021 (Retailer)
Stamford Toys

Nick Tarzia started in the toy business in 2004. Not long after that, he joined ASTRA and became a member of TIA. Prior to being in the toy business, Nick owned an office supply business for 15 years and prior to that, he grew up working in his families Italian restaurant business.

Due in part to his previous business experiences, he has enjoyed 14 successful years in the toy industry and looks forward to many more to come. He is acutely aware of the changes that are happening in the industry and sees them as an opportunity to evolve and grow. He believes in success through collaboration and values the friendships he has made in the toy industry.

Nick is proud to say Stamford Toys is a winner of Best Toy Store on the Fairfield County Cold Coast. He is honored to have become one of the business pillars in his community and never turns down the opportunity to give back. Whether it’s a school fundraiser or a toy collection for the pediatric ward of his local hospital, Nick is always happy to contribute.

Nick is an active member of Stamford’s State Street Debate Society, which is a group of local business men, lawyers, politicians and government officials that discusses local and national issues and provides college scholarships to children annually.

Contact Nick:
970 High Ridge Rd
Stamford, CT 06905
(203) 322-7786 Phone