about astra

Board Officers & Directors

Officers


Erik Quam / 2019 (Manufacturer)
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
 


Ann Kienzle / 2018 (Retailer)
Outgoing Chair
*play

After over 19 years in the toy industry as a vendor, a sales rep and a consultant, Ann Kienzle took the leap in 2010 to the other side and opened *play in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago. Play is an award winning toy store that has been featured in several magazine publications and on ABC News in Chicago. After serving on several ASTRA committees over the years, Ann was honored when asked to sit on the Board. And even more honored when asked to move up to the executive committee! Ann also sits on the board of the Emerald City Children’s Theatre and I Am Logan Square (an arts organization). She started a neighborhood event “Holidays on the Square” 4 years ago with another local shop owner to bring attention to the “Shop Local” movement in the community. Ann continues to consult for vendors and retailers.

Contact Ann:
3109 W Logan Blvd
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 227-6504 Phone
 


Dee Farrell / 2020 (Manufacturer)
Incoming 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 has also help 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
 


Michelle Sahr / 2018 (Retailer)
Treasurer
Off the Wagon

Growing up, Michelle Sahr’s dad supported the family with his retail shops which included a toy store. Michelle loved working in the stores as a child and went on to study business in college (BS in Marketing) before coming home to work in the family business full time. Today, she is the president and owner of the family business which includes two shops (one toy store).

A lifetime in retail and the toy business has given her a lot of experience. Michelle has been a toy retailer since 1991. She heard about ASTRA early on and joined 18 years ago. Michelle knows and believes that the specialty toy industry is stronger because we work together, and ASTRA has made that possible.

As a mother of three children (including one special needs child) Michella has a mom's perspective on play and learning in addition to all she has learned in lifelong retailing. She is heavily involved in her local Main Street program and have served as board president and treasurer. Michelle has also served as a board member for a local private school for six years, Cornerstone Community School.

Michelle is often asked to be in positions of leadership, as it tends to be a natural inclination. She finds being on boards can be (at times) energizing and even fun. Michelle particularly enjoys planning into the future and working together to determine the steps needed to accomplish goals.

Contact Michelle:
152 E Main St
Kent, OH 44240
(330) 474-1330 Phone
 


Christine Blumberg / 2018 (Sales Rep)
Secretary
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
 


Directors

 

Christine Osborne / 2018 (Retailer)
Wonder Works

Christine Osborne has been in the toy industry as owner of Wonder Works for 25 years.

Her background as an Occupational Therapist, Hospital Marketing Director, and Head Injury Program Development Director led to her to this transition. In 1990 seeing the need for quality hands-on toys for all ages in her community, she developed a business model embracing science & nature with a former co-worker Dr. Morrisey. It quickly grew to a larger store and then a second store was added. Upon Dr. Morrisey's passing in 2007, Christine harnessed a new strength to preserve and make Wonder Works a sustainable business in a new way.

Localism was introduced as a business model, where Christine integrated local children's charities and products created by children into her stores. Wonder Works has become a cornerstone in the Charleston community and has flourished to 4 stores, and online store, and central distribution center. Passion, wonder, and magic occur daily in Wonder Works stores with Christine leading her tenured team of Magic Makers.

Sustainability of the toy industry is key to Christine's vision for the future of Wonder Works and all specialty toy stores. Her events and promotions incorporate local specialty, national specialty and mass vendors in a spirit of collaboration to ever grow the industry.

"Perseverance, proactivity, and positivity are key to help maintain a forward path for the future of ASTRA." Christine Stiepel Osborne is honored to be a part of the ASTRA Board.

Contact Christine:
492A-B LaMesa Rd
Mt Pleasant, SC 29464
(843) 364-8127 Phone
 


Gwen Ottenberg / 2018 (Retailer)
Imagine That Toys

Gwen Ottenberg and her husband, Al, own Imagine That Toys in Wichita, Kansas. They just celebrated their eighth Christmas. Gwen loves to be on the sales floor with her staff and her customers. She loves to play and think that most of the time she has created the best job to fit herself and her personality. Gwen’s motto is to put the right toy in the child's hands at the right time.

Gwen has a degree in Communication with a minor in Business and English from the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Even during a serious college career, she said that she wanted to play for a living. Gwen’s mom always told her that she couldn't play for a living and that eventually she would get a real job, and so far Gwen has proven to be stubborn...

As a board member, Gwen will bring a fresh perspective to the industry. She is not afraid to speak her mind and look outside of the box for an answer. She believes we are in a crucial time and need to come out with a united voice on the value of play. Gwen is a competitive person and loves to have team spirit. We are all valuable members of the industry, and she hopes to speak up for the retailers.

Contact Gwen:
2939 N Rock Rd
Ste 150
Wichita, KS 67226
(316) 239-7483 Phone
 


 

Nicole Bortnick / 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:
2116 W Dickens Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 235-0893 Phone
 


Cynthia Compton / 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 / 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
 


Kevin McGrath / 2020 (Manufacturer)
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 / 2020 (Retailer)
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