BEND — As an up-and-coming toy maker and co-owner of Zing Toys, Steve Walterscheid is waiting for his company's big break.
And Zing Toys almost got it earlier this year. In a scene of the NBC television show "The Office," lead character Michael Scott, played by Steve Carell, tossed one of Zing's top-selling toys, a dart with a sticky foam top called Zartz, across a room. But even though the scene was filmed, it wasn't included when the episode aired. "That would have been huge for us," said Walterscheid, a Tumalo resident. "It would have made us."
Despite missing out on some free prime-time advertising for the Zartz, another of Walterscheid's toys did get air time back in late 2009. A video now on YouTube shows talk show host David Letterman testing out the Zyclone, which can shoot spring-loaded foam rings more than 100 feet. "No batteries, just simple physics," Letterman says. "This is all you really need for a kid."
Other than Zing's brushes with fame on the small screen, Walterscheid's company, based in Banks, has been gaining wider attention since its founding in 2006.
Larger businesses, including Dick's Sporting Goods and REI, now are carrying certain Zing products, in addition to local toy stores such as Leapin' Lizards, which carries about 10 to 15 of Zing's 70 toy products.
"It definitely catches the eyes of boys a lot," Kristie Lash, manager of Leapin' Lizards, said about Zartz. She said Zing's toys encourage activity, rather than some electronic toys that cause children to sit around. "Everything is really fun and just really active and hands-on."
Walterscheid said his inspiration for many of his products is Wham-O, the company that created the Hula Hoop and Slip 'n Slide. He said Zing isn't like a traditional toy business, in that its products are targeted toward children older than 6 and it doesn't make video games. "It's what we like to do," said Walterscheid, 47. "We like to throw boomerangs; we like to throw balls."
With distribution both nationally and internationally, Zing has grown from a startup with only one or two products to a business with $2.5 million in gross revenue in 2009. While Walterscheid handles operations in the U.S., his partner, Peter Cummings, handles international distribution.
The pair met because of their mutual involvement in the toy industry. Walterscheid had only minimal involvement at the time, having created two toys on his own: Benders and Acrobatz.
Despite the difficulties that come with owning a business, Walterscheid is still trying to grow Zing. Along with designing their own products, Zing also buys toys from inventors. One of those is the Zyclone, a part of the Zing Air line, which Walterscheid said Zing is trying the hardest to build. "We make, I think, the finest flying toys there are," he said.