Made in Chicagoland: Radio Flyer

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Fortune Magazine ranks Radio Flyer among the best small and medium workplaces in America - and why not, when you're in the business of toys and playing?

Some toys take years to perfect, even the classics. Luckily, Radio Flyer has almost a century of practice in getting it right.

"Of course, yeah. Sometimes you definitely get disappointed if you really love an idea and it just doesn't work," said Cameron Eckert, senior product development engineer.

"Yes, I've had a number of failures. I've become an expert at failure," said Tom Schlegel, senior vice president of product development.

The iconic kid's wagon was created in 1917 by Antonio Pasin, an Italian immigrant working in his Chicago wood shop. It has undergone countless revisions and eventually drew a name that stuck from innovations of the day: radio and flight.

"It starts with research and then as we identify those insights, then we start sketching up concepts," Schlegel said. "We review those concepts and then we start to make prototypes."

The company's first folding wagon took 12 years to develop. But even in a highly competitive market, some things never change.

"Yeah, the company's always been based here in Chicago and over the years as the product has changed the company has stayed right here," Schlegel said.

And the reward is measured in more than profits.

"You'll design a toy and you might see it on the market, you might see it at a park and a kid is playing with it. So, I would say, very rewarding and definitely fun," Eckert said.

Those last couple of shots are actually my daughters, Addie and Lola. I used to cart them around in our all-terrain wagon. These days we use it to cart home flowers and food from the farmer's market.

All of Radio Flyer's designs come from Chicago. The toys themselves are manufactured all over the U.S. and world.
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