about astra

Board Officers & Directors


Amy Saldanha, CPE, CMR / 2022 (Retailer)

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.

Christine Blumberg, CPE / 2021 (Sales Rep)
Past 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.

Kevin McGrath / 2023 (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.''

Dee Farrell, CPE / 2020 (Affiliate)

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

Before Hape International 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 Hape, 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.

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

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.


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

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.

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.

Betty 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. .

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!

Jeanie Crone / 2022 (Manufacturer)

Jeanie has held executive positions in many industries throughout her career. She started as a retail apparel buyer, later moving into apparel product development and sourcing. She was eventually named Vice President of Global Sourcing and Production for Tommy Hilfiger.

Jeanie lived in France for 10 years, working as a consultant for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in London. There she used her apparel production skills to help prepare companies in Romania to qualify their businesses for loans from the bank, as their country prepared for entry into the European Union.

Returning to the U. S. in 2009, Jeanie was named Vice President of the Publishing Division of Educational Development Corporation (EDC). In her 9 years at EDC she focused on the Specialty Toy Market in an effort to successfully broaden EDC’s scope in this very important channel.

In 2018 Jeanie joined Schleich, USA as Senior Manager of the Specialty Channel.   In her role, she continues to maintain strong customer relationships.    Her ability to fully understand the business from both the retail and wholesale sides makes her a valuable business partner.

Corey Funkey / 2022 (Manufacturer)
Smart Toys and Games, Inc.

Corey has had a very successful career as a sales executive for the past 30 years. His experience is in both large multi-national corporations and smaller entrepreneurial organizations.

Prior to joining Smart Toys and Games, Inc., he was Vice President of Sales for Fibre Craft Materials in the arts /crafts and toy categories. He led the development of a strategic planning process that allowed the business to double in size.

His experience in working with both large mass market retailers and independent specialty toy stores allows him to have a unique perspective on the retail market. He finds the most positive difference between the channels is the passion that specialty store owners bring to the business.

He has been an active member of ASTRA serving on multiple committees. Corey served as Vice Chairman of the Board of the Kids in Need Foundation; a national charity devoted to helping deliver school supplies to underprivileged children across the US.

Corey and his wife Mary Ann live in the south suburbs of Chicago. They have two grown children Amanda and Christopher. In his spare time, he enjoys cooking, reading and trying to solve SmartGames challenges.

Lisa Orman / 2022 (Affiliate)
KidStuff Public Relations

Lisa Orman has been passionately building awareness for specialty toys, games, juvenile services and more for 25 years. She started KidStuff PR when she was pregnant with her first child because she realized all new parents go through this massive educational process trying to learn about what they want and need for their little humans. Most of the really cool stuff she ferreted out for her own family was NOT from massive companies with multi-million dollar advertising budgets so she realized those smaller entrepreneurial companies needed her PR expertise the most.

It's been her joy to live a playful life with her clients and media who cover them making every day different and packed with interesting challenges. She knows how lucky she is to love her work and wouldn’t trade it for anything. Her kids grew up as KidStuff PR’s play testers and she thinks they are brilliant and intellectually curious young adults now because they got the best of play when they were children.

Her hobbies include cooking, travel, playing with her dog, meeting new friends, shopping at specialty stores and reading. And she’s the self-declared Queen of Yahtzee, her favorite game. If you spot her on a plane she’ll probably be playing her electronic version of it.

Brad Ruoho / 2022 (Retailer)
Legacy Toys

Brad has been in the toy industry for seven years and an ASTRA member for five years. His passion for toys started long before that. Brad is a born entrepreneur with a child-like heart - from the age of 18, he has started and successfully grown numerous businesses. He sold all of them to focus on the toy industry, recognizing the deeper meaning and quality of life it provides.

In 2012, Brad and his wife, along with their three daughters, started their first toy store, Legacy Toys, in Ely, MN. They wanted to fill the void the local toy store left upon closing in their small town. Since then, he has grown Legacy Toys to four stores in the upper midwest, with a fifth location set to open in the Mall of America in October 2019. In addition, he has launched Legacy Bound, a children's book publishing company, and Golden Monkey Games, a game development and publishing company.

Brad also is a partner of Sun in My Heart, a non-profit company that builds homes, schools and orphanages around the world. All of these companies have the same mission: "Making the world a better place for our children; the greatest Legacy we can leave."

Tom Rushton / 2022 (Sales Representative)
Revenew Sales 

As a kid or even while in college, Tom was not sure he knew was going to work in the toy industry. After meeting the Front Porch Classics team while selling German Galileo Thermometers at a trade show in Chicago, it hit him like the proverbial ton of bricks - he had to be a part of selling fun.

Since his time at Front Porch Classics, Tom served as VP-Sales of Sababa Toys before joining Revenew Sales, which he now runs from his farm outside of Wilmington, NC. 

When he's not flying to his next meeting, he can be found on a mountain bike trail somewhere in the Southeast, pedaling away and doing his best to avoid the trees.

Ron Solomon / 2023 (Affiliate)
The Creditors Network/ MAPP Trap

Ronald Solomon has written novels and television shows, created award-winning children’s products and run commercially successful companies spanning children's toys and games, and created cutting edge, B2B Enterprise Level Software as a Service (SaaS) products.

In 2006 Solomon started The Creditors Network, a unique, online system that helps vendors to exchange credit information on their shared customers. In 2012 the company added MAPP Trap to its portfolio in order to help companies keep track of how their products are being represented by online merchants and to assist in brand-value threats caused by over-distribution, hyper-discounting, grey-market sellers and policy compliance. The system is currently in use by manufacturers in a variety of industries spanning, toys, games, juvenile products, pet products, gift, housewares, auto parts, sporting goods, health, beauty and more.

From 1998-2010, Solomon successfully created and distributed his own line of award-winning products for the “tween” market. Through his company, Swingset Press, Solomon forged a successful niche in the specialty toy, gift, book and girls’ accessories markets. His products received publicity in such venues as The Rosie O’Donnell Show, Radio Disney, AOL’s “Kid’s On Line”, InStyle Magazine, The Today Show, New York Magazine, Working Mother, Parenting and YM and more.

Before forming Swingset Press, Solomon spent over a decade in television. Starting in 1987, he worked with NBC to create the highly successful "TNBC" block of programming. He worked as a writer/producer and writer/co-executive producer on such iconic series as "Saved By The Bell," "California Dreams" (created by Solomon for NBC), and "Hang Time." After completing over 200 episodes, Solomon left NBC and wrote dozens of freelance scripts (produced) and original television pilots for Fred Silverman, UPN, Disney, and FOX Television.