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The Fabricants: A Force in the Toy Industry and Beyond

I recently told Norman Fabricant that he and his wife, Arlene were a “Force” in the toy industry and in the lives of many of us lucky enough to know them. In his characteristic humility, he felt that word was hyperbole. How could two people, each of them 5’3” tall on a good day, and lacking the flashiness of say, a Jedi Master, be called a force? It’s a reasonable question.

Here’s the answer: They are a team of giants.

Let’s start with the word “team”. Of course, Arlene and Norman possess individual traits and talents all their own, but to know them was to know them as a team. Not since calling my parents from college have I experienced speaking to any couple simultaneously on two different land-line extensions. Whoever answered the phone immediately called out to the other, and before you knew it, you had two of the most loving, caring, interesting people to speak to, learn from, and share with. They quickly became my toy industry “aunt and uncle”. And then more. Quick to celebrate a success, lament a setback, and selflessly offer advice…much of which continues to resonate.

Being with them in person was even more exciting. First of all, the smiles that you could “hear” through the phone now beamed right in front of you. They were tireless in their energy to go anywhere, regardless of what time of night or how far a drive. They knew all the cool places in New York City, and the three of us would waltz into one hot spot after another. And then the conversations would begin. Their tireless energy was matched only by their tireless curiosity. They were eager to explore any topic, share opinions, ask insightful questions, and then connect to stories in their own life.

The longevity of their careers as well as their inventions -- Dr. Drill ‘n Fill and Ready Steady Ride-On to name a few -- is well known. Most if not all of us would agree that they are the most beloved people in our industry, among inventors and manufacturers alike. When Arlene sadly passed away this year, all of us who were left to grieve were finishing each others’ sentences when talking about her. I couldn’t help but think that despite all that I thought I had learned from the Fabricants over the past 30 years (!), that this would be her and Norman’s enduring lesson: To live a life worthy of such admiration, to create a legacy without even realizing it, and to make a giant impact on others in countless ways, big and small.

Today we celebrate Norman and Arlene. For all you toy industry Jedis: may the Fabricant Force be with you!

Robert Schwartzman

President, Pace Development Group


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