SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — In business, it’s all about supply and demand, but what if the supply doesn’t exist and the demand is from a six-year-old who lives more than 1,000 miles away? That’s the exact setup for a new-found friendship and some serious innovation right in Scranton.
Every kid wants to be the hero of their own story. As it turns out, Jeff Imel is one of the heroes of this story. The Scranton native is at the helm of BMC Toys, a local toy manufacturer under the Victorybuy Incorporated umbrella.
“I do a lot of everything! These days most people do the work of about five people. I do the work of about five departments,” Imel said.
There’s a pretty good chance you’ve heard of or even played with one of the company’s best-selling products.
“We call it the American Hero Collectors’ Series. It’s all historically themed play sets and bag sets,” Imel said.
Little green Army men. And they just so happen to be the toy of choice of Vivian Lord, the heroine of the story and a very observant six-year-old from Little Rock, Arkansas.
One day Vivian noticed that none of the little green figurines were women. So like any concerned citizen…
“We did some research and we found a guy that was making Army men and we sent a letter to him,” Lord said.
The guy on the other end of that letter was… you guessed it!
“You know, I’ve gone through it with my own sisters. They were really excited about something. Just to not have it available, so I related to that,” Imel said.
As it turns out, Jeff was already working on what he calls the Plastic Army Women project.
“You have to start with an idea. We did some rough sketches to see if people liked it then we hired a sculptor,” Imel said.
“This is usually known as the captain pose. Very often there’s a figure that’s holding a handgun and binoculars which indicates a higher rank,” Jeff said.
Now with the prototype done, and that push from Vivian, Jeff is finally taking the product to market.
“It’s about three months to develop the figures, three months to have the new molds made, three months to leave time for shipping and we’ll be okay,” Imel said.
And by 2020 the plastic Army women will be ready for action.
“I promise to have them for Christmas shopping next year,” Imel said.
Exactly the news Vivian was hoping for.
“Thank you for doing this! It made me so happy,” Vivian said.
And now she’s ready to play with her set as soon as it’s available.
“I might just get the boy Army men out of the way and just play with the girls,” Vivian said.
A fitting end for our two heroes. Because as even this six-year-old knows, at the end of every good story “we win! The good guys win!” Vivian said.
Jeff says that one of the reasons other toymakers haven’t done this is that these are meant to be historical toys and historically speaking, there weren’t too many women on the battlefield.