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Read more about Tom's background

KSBY-TV salutes Tom Merrin


Excerpts from the story:
A toy maker carries on a family tradition following in his father's footsteps. In the spirit of the Central Coast, he helps brighten the holidays for others. Call it a calling.
"My dad passed away seven years ago on Christmas day so I started making the trains for my son" explained Tom.
Trains and other wooden toys created from plans first drawn by Tom Merrin's dad. Now it seems he has cut out a niche for himself carrying on a family tradition and keeping the connection alive. This year many of Tom's toys will be going under the Christmas tree but they'll also be going to help put food on the table as well. You see, he teamed up with the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County to raffle off a train just like this one. Money raised goes directly to the non-profit organization.
Toys made by hand to open hearts. Small pieces of wood. A small workshop in a small town. It's how one man is building big values in the spirit of the Central Coast.

Story by Marcie DeGarimore,
KSBY-TV Action News
San Luis Obispo, California
December 12, 1999

Toys link father and son

Excerpts from the article:
When Tom Merrin's father died on Christmas Day, Merrin needed a new way to celebrate a holiday he once loved. Woodworking afforded him not only seasonal happiness, but a connection to his father and children. The hobby also became his passion and livelihood.
Merrin's mom netted the woodworker some of his first customers. Mostly grandparents, they ordered the handiwork as gifts for grandchildren. Grandparents remain big buyers as they seek presents that resemble products from Santa's workshop. After the strawberry festival, the toy maker began showing his work at various craft shows, finding a customer base in those who appreciate old-fashioned, wooden toys.
Merrin is a self-proclaimed perfectionist and toils to sand and smooth his toys. "It's unique that he can do this in this day and age," said Bruce Maulden, an admirer. "This shows what an entrepreneur can do if he puts his mind to it."

Story by Editor Emily Slater
Adobe Press
Nipomo, California
December 21, 2001

Hardwood Games, Puzzles and Toys Make Great Gifts for Adults
Excerpts from the article:
Classic train sets. Fire trucks. Helicopters and planes. The hardwood toys Tom Merrin makes are enough to enthrall any child. And, it turns out, adults like them too. "People get excited when they see a product crafted of wood, especially when they realize it's hardwood with natural finishing," Merrin says. "They want something nostalgic."
Beautiful, lasting hardwood toys like those Merrin makes are popular gifts for grown-ups. Merrin, who lives in Arroyo Grande, Calif., is following in the career footsteps of his parents, Mary Jane and Robert Merrin. They owned Marbo Hand Painted Toys, a company that sold to stores across the country.
2001 Hardwood Manufacturers Association.

Central Coast Geppeto Carving 65 Choo-Choos to Chug at Christmas
Excerpts from the article:
Merrin, a gentle, affable man living in Arroyo Grande, builds wooden toys. He has perfected a wooden Noah's Ark, a helicopter, and even a Mississippi paddle boat, but it is his little wooden train that is most in demand, especially at Christmas. He makes the steam engine, six unique cars and caboose out of hardwood, particularly cherry and oak. They are finely sanded, with no paint or varnish. Many adults buy them as collector's items as well as for their children.
For three generations, Merrin's family has been, as his mother Mary Jane Merrin, says, "entirely mad for trains."
After Tom finished the first train, he decided to make another for his two-and-a-half-year-old son, Douglas. After watching Douglas play with that train, he decided to make another, adapting changes that made playing with the train more complicated, and perhaps more interesting.
Tom explains, "I saw what he did with the train, and what he wanted to do. So, I began to add things. For instance, I made a car with a crane and gave it a magnet at the end. Then I made another car with barrels, attaching magnets to them so the crane would lift them, and so on." Now that toy making has become his business, Tom loves to get similar feedback from his customers. He wants his craft to continue to evolve.
For Tom, carving wood is connecting with people, passing the skill and the object from person to person, generation to generation.

Story By Melanie Topp,
Plus Magazine
San Luis Obispo, California
December, 2000

Tom Merrin Santa's Helper


Excerpts from the article:

Help Wanted: Toy maker, skilled craftsman; must enjoy making toys, be kind hearted and love children. Please send resume to Santa Claus, North Pole.
Tom Merrin is one of Santa's helpers. Producing trains, planes, Noah's arks, school buses holding markers, animals and tiny trucks out of real wood - birch, cherry, oak, and walnut - he makes toys that delight children, as well as their parents and grandchildren.
Tom Merrin's Hardwood Toys is a newer, developing business, one of the many wonderful home grown businesses in San Luis Obispo County. But the details of this business are familiar to Tom from his childhood. While growing up in the San Fernando Valley, his family had a small, home-based business that manufactured children's wooden furniture and toys. These were sold through retailers such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom's and Bullock's Wilshire.
"My business started by word of mouth. My mother told her friends about the train. Her friends liked the design and the natural wood, so they ordered the train and other toys for their grandchildren."
What about the future? "I don't want to be a major manufacturer. People have offered to manufacture our product in China or Mexico, but I want to make a good product and talk with my customers." " I like seeing the little kid come up who says, "Mr., you make all this stuff" How do you do it? as much as making the toys."

Story By Jean Knox,
San Luis Obispo Magazine
San Luis Obispo, California
October, 2000

All for the love of toys
Excerpts from the article:
Infusing life into a piece of hardwood is not only a full-time occupation for Arroyo Grande's Tom Merrin, it's integral to upholding his father's legacy. "Some of the fondest memories I have as a kid are of working with my parents on building things," Merrin said. His parents began their home-based toy and furniture business in the 1960s and 70s before such businesses were popular, said Tom Merrin. "They were in that way trendsetters." What began as tinkering became a full-time business more than two years ago, fulfilling a lifelong dream for Tom Merrin. Rather than mass-producing toys, Hardwood Toys has sold its wares at arts and crafts shows,as well as on its Web site. Bob Merrin's son has followed in his footsteps with Hardwood Toys, a company that specializes in crafting toys from hardwoods, like cherry and oak.

Story by Shaya Mohajer
The San Luis Obispo Tribune
San Luis Obispo, California
July 17, 2000

Toy Trains a link between past and present
Excerpts from the article:
Without railroad tracks, Tom Merrin's trains make their connections. His wooden toy trains connect grandmothers to grandchildren through stories they share of their grandfathers once making wooden toys for them.
Merrin's dad also made wooden toys and sold them at Southern California department stores years ago.
One of Merrin's most popular toys has turned out to be Noah's Ark and Animals. "It's the first Bible story people teach their kids," he said by way of explanation.
He doesn't paint or stain his wooden toys since younger children like to taste their playthings.

Story by Monica Fiscalini,
The San Luis Obispo Tribune
San Luis Obispo, California
December 5, 1999

Making wood trains a "lost art"
Excerpts from the article:
Emotions play a key role in creative craftsmanship, remarkably the more so when the product is hand-made, intended for children and bridges a generation.
Sentiments for a deceased father, and sensitivities for his own children, propel Tom Merrin to create incredible, intricate trains, trucks, boats and even animals boarding an Ark of pure, solid cherry wood. And to operate these machines, there's tiny wooden people at the steering wheels, throttles and helms. Merrin is an accomplished artist in the practically-forgotten medium of building toys out of wood.
"It's emotional stuff," Merrin says. "A connection to my dad, and now to my son. My father has a lot to do with this, and when I started again, I started making (the first train) for my son when he was two-and-a-half." Merrin said children need toys which stimulate the imagination and give them hours of playtime without television, or video games.
"Douglas (Merrin's son, now 5 and-a-half) dragged that train around for hours, he was completely engaged with it," Merrin said. "Parents have to concern themselves with their children."
Merrin's parents were both involved in making things. "My dad's passion was working with wood," Merrin says, "and I'd go to the workshop and work with him. My mother, too, she worked with the wood. They made the old-fashioned rocking horses, the ones with the rockers (not the spring, bounce variety), they always had the love to put things together."
Children, though, are the source and real passion for Merrin's labors. Not only with his own mother and father but with his two children as well - Merrin has put them first.

Story By Bruce Maulden,
Five Cities Times-Press-Recorder
Arroyo Grande, California
November 10, 1999

Bigstep Front Door Showcase


Excerpts from the article:
Classic wooden toys are a Merrin family tradition. After growing up in his parents' workshop, Tom Merrin went on to build his own business out of making and selling the same kinds of toys his parents made. His trucks, tractors, airplanes, and Noah's ark figures are made of North American hardwoods and built to last a lifetime.
Tom always sold his toys at local craft fairs, but customers kept telling him that they wanted to be able to buy his products all year long. He decided that a web site was the only way to go, and started building his site in May of this year. helped Tom get his business up and running quickly.
Story by Alison Jarrett,
Bigstep Showcase Program
December 2000 through January 2001

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