StoryBlox Reader StoryBlox - Custom, Handcrafted Alphabet Blocks

Pile-o-Blocks


May 21, 2010

As you may or may not know, I closed StoryBlox last September (see letter below), due to new laws that went into effect last year, which were passed as a reaction to lead found in toys imported from China.

While all of our toys are handmade in America, safe and non-toxic, and have always followed or exceeded all applicable safety standards, the new laws made it impossible for small businesses like ours to continue producing toys, due to the exorbitant 3rd party lab testing requirements.  Since we make custom toys, testing would be required on every single toy we ever make, which would require us to charge thousands of dollars for each simple toy we sell.

The CPSIA laws have not yet been amended, however, it appears that Congress is on it's way towards allowing component testing, and the CPSC (the body that enforces the laws) has indicated that it will allow component testing as well while we wait on Congress to make this important decision.

I am disabled, and I built this business from the ground up as means of continuing to support myself.  I cannot afford to let my dream die because large businesses farmed out the manufacturing of their toys to non-US businesses that had no concern for the safety of our children.  With this in mind, after careful consideration, I have decided to reopen my business.

So, we are currently OPEN for business.  Our promotional products are available now, and we will be adding back other items as we get the paperwork together to verify 3rd party testing on the component parts and setup new labels.  If you are interested in a specific product and are wondering when it will be available please feel free to contact me for more information.

Sincerely,
Tammy Bowles
StoryBlox™ Creator
May 21, 2010

September 17, 2009

Last year, as you know, there were a string of toy recalls involving massive numbers of toys, some from major manufacturers, which had made it into our children’s hands containing toxic lead paint. This sent consumers running in droves for small manufacturers, like us, for the Christmas season last year, and it also spurred Washington into passing, very quickly, a very flawed piece of legislation known as the CPSIA.

If you haven’t heard about the CPSIA, or don’t understand what all the fuss has been about, you can read more about the legislation here: http://www.whatisthecpsia.com/ and more detailed and recent news here: http://learningresourcesinc.blogspot.com/.

The CPSIA was written so its different statutes took effect on a schedule. At this time, the bill has come into full effect, but the CPSC – the body that’s in charge of enforcing the law – still has a “Stay of Enforcement” in place for parts of the bill, which expires at the end of this year.

Until recently, I had high hopes that this law would be amended. There have been numerous amendment attempts from various members of congress, some with a decent amount of support, but as far as I know all attempts have been killed by special committee before they even got to a vote. Now that the bill is in full effect, and we’re rapidly approaching the end of the stay of enforcement, I have been forced into making a decision I did not want to have to make.

As of today (September 17,2009), I am announcing, with deep regret, the indefinite closing of StoryBlox™.

Our toys are, and always were, safe. Every paint we’ve used is certified non-toxic and lead-free. We have documentation certifying every finish and glue that we use, as well. Unfortunately, none of this matters. The CPSIA legislation will require that we get a separate, destructive, 3rd party test on every single end-product toy we sell – regardless of the components, regardless of the cost. For a company that runs small productions, the costs of testing are so high that there is no way to cover them, let alone make any profit selling the products. For a company like ours, which does most of its business in custom, one-of-a-kind toys, the testing process would destroy each product before it could get to the customer that ordered it.

We do not mass produce our products, for that our customers love us, and for that congress has made it impossible for us to continue selling our toys without breaking the law. Some small businesses are taking the “just keep selling things until they catch you” approach, but I am not comfortable with that attitude. Regardless of my personal feelings towards this law, it is still law. Even if I could get my mind around the idea of ignoring a law because I disagree with it, the fines in place for ignoring the impossible requirements of this law are astronomical.

The way the law reads right now, a company selling a perfectly safe toy – which complies with all lead, phthalates, small parts and flammability requirements – that has not labeled the toy correctly, or cannot provide a proper 3rd party testing certificate for that toy, can still be fined hundreds of thousands of dollars, at the whim of the CPSC. As a small business without the resources of a major corporation, we cannot afford the testing, or the risk of fines for not testing. As a disabled woman living on a meager income, I certainly cannot take this risk.

I had originally planned to keep our business open, selling only our promotional products, and possibly some or all of our keepsakes (which are not aimed at children), while waiting on the law to be amended. After much deliberation, however, I have decided that I am not comfortable doing this. StoryBlox™ was founded on educational blocks; education has always been our main focus, and a StoryBlox™ without educational toys is just not the same company. I would rather shut down for now, and wait on the necessary changes, than compromise because of a bad law.

I hope that this is not the end for us. Hopefully, in a year or two, common sense will win out, and the law will be amended so that it actually protects our children, while encouraging, rather than destroying, small businesses like ours that have been producing safe products from the get-go. If and when that happens, hopefully I will be in a place where I can re-open the business.

I sincerely apologize to our loyal customers, who were looking forward to purchasing our toys this Christmas season and beyond. I would like to encourage all of you to talk to your representatives and let them know how this is affecting you as a consumer.

Thank you for your years of support.

Sincerely,
Tammy Bowles
StoryBlox™ Creator
September 17, 2009



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