Robots and Cars, Oh Boy!

Two New Jersey entrepreneurs develop innovative (and educational!) toys for kids of all ages.

Teaming up with Ken Pilot, former president of Gap Brands and father of three, they opened the first RobotGalaxy store in the Freehold Raceway Mall last October, with a second store opening a month later just over the border in Nyack, New York.At RobotGalaxy, kids blast off into an experience based on characters from the comic book series The Brotherhood. They assemble robot figures from a parts list yielding more than 1,000 combinations of motors, accessories, rover vehicles, and programmable features (such as reciting the child’s name).“For so long the toy industry has determined what toys will do,” says Mitchell. “But in our store, the kids are in charge!” Perhaps, but it’s the parents who have to charge it. Robots cost $27 to $80.Long after Ford’s Mahwah plant closed, cars are being manufactured in Jersey again. Okay, toy cars, but you can’t beat the mileage. Automoblox, a Wharton-based company run by Jersey-bred entrepreneur Patrick Calello, makes modular hardwood-and-Lexan cars that can be assembled in different ways. Calello, who loved Legos as a boy, developed Automoblox with the help of a child psychologist. One of the aims is to boost puzzle-solving skills. “It was just as important to achieve the learning benefits as the sales goals,” Calello says. The six models can be assembled in various combinations. (Full-size cars, about eight inches long, are $35; four-inch minis are about $10). Automoblox passed muster with Calello’s five-year-old daughter, and he insists the toys are not just for boys…or kids.“A 40-year-old Ferrari collector in Paris loves our products just as much as a nine-year-old boy from Alabama who grew up on nascar,” he says. “These cars don’t get thrown into a toy box at the end of the day—I know kids who sleep with them!”

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