For Taylor Hanna, a quiet 6-year-old, getting a new toy was an exciting prospect.
On a recent trip to Imagine That Toys, 2939 N. Rock Road, Taylor picked out a ball and inflated it herself using the Inflation Station from MegaFun USA, another Wichita-based company, 3843 N. Cypress Drive.
“It’s like Build-a-Bear for balls,” said Jennifer Walker, sales and marketing manager at MegaFun USA, describing the Inflation Station, the company’s latest product, which lets kids pick from more than 30 designs.
“We’ve made it interactive, so rather than just having the child come and pick out a ball that’s already inflated they get to inflate it themselves.”
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So far, Imagine That Toys is the only local retailer with an Inflation Station, Walker said.
MegaFun USA has sold between 350 and 500 Inflation Stations across the U.S. and is working to get it into major national toy retailers.
“We’re always looking to have a fun experience, and this is something that puts an experience with a toy together,” said Gwen Ottenberg, Imagine That Toys owner.
The store was a test location for the Inflation Station before it went to market.
“One of the nice things about being a local business working with another local business is that we can really work together to come up with better products,” Ottenberg said.
In February, MegaFun introduced the Inflation Station at the Toy Fair in New York City, said Donnamarie Senn, CEO of MegaFun USA.
Most retailers sell balls already inflated, Senn said. For retailers, one perk of the Inflation Station is that the balls are shipped deflated and the machine can hold up to 288 balls.
“It’s all about the return on space in the store,” Senn said.
The Wichita-based MegaFun USA is in charge of sales and distribution in the U.S. and Canada, and its manufacturing and international export sales are based out of Guadalajara, Mexico.
An inventor in Mexico came up with the idea for the machine and worked with MegaFun so that the patented machine would work with MegaFun’s balls, Walker said.
“The obvious goal for us is to get reorders on the balls,” Walker said.
The balls come in more than 30 designs and retail for about $2.99 each.
The inflation station has a security shield over the needle and the balls cannot be overinflated, Walker said. Kids use a foot pump attached to the ball display to inflate the balls.
The company started in Wichita as Vacor USA in 1992, but was better known as Mega Marbles, since marbles were its primary product, Senn said.
In 2005, ownership of the company changed and the name became Fabricas Selectas USA (FS-USA). The company expanded into play balls and other toys.
The company changed its name to MegaFun USA in January, Senn said.
Wichita’s centralized location is helpful in shipping products, she said.
“We’re here in the middle of the U.S. and we’re shipping marbles. It’s a little bit of a heavier product and so we wanted to stay in the middle of the country,” Senn said. “We can ship to anywhere in the U.S. for about the same amount no matter whether you go to the East Coast or the West Coast. So it’s very convenient to be in the middle of the country.”
“They are heavy, weight-wise, and that means money.”