By Terry Dean
The Chicago-based toy manufacturer behind the new Tickle Me Elmo hopes to relocate to River Forest by June of next year, the company's founder said Monday.
As first reported in Wednesday Journal last week, Lund and Company, makers of the 10th Anniversary Elmo doll now in stores, is planning to move its headquarters from Chicago's North Side to River Forest by next summer, said Bruce Lund, the company's founder and owner.
Lund, a River Forest resident for two years, told Wednesday Journal on Monday that the company is in talks with River Forest officials about the move. Lund said he wanted his company closer to home.
The company is looking to buy a vacant, one-story building at 344 Lathrop Ave., with plans to construct a partial second floor in the 5,000-square-foot property.
Lund said a mezzanine would be built to accommodate some of his staff, and that the move would take about six months. The company's current location at 4111 N. Rockwell is a 3,500-square foot, one-story building.
Lund said the River Forest property is virtually identical to the company's current location, and that the company would use the same 3,500 square feet of space in the new property while renting out 1,500 square foot of space in the front of the building.
"It would be ideal for a small loft or accounting office, but it would depend on who's interested," Lund said. "We should be able to move within six months. We're looking at June of '07. That's our wish at this point.
Steve Gutierrez, assistant River Forest village administrator, said the village has been in talks with Lund for several months.
"Nothing has been determined yet," he said. "We're just exchanging information and working out what [Lund] wants to do."
Gutierrez added that the village will decide on what, if any, type of zoning will be needed for the project.
"We're really close to getting all that figured out," he said.
Lund and Company manufactured the latest Tickle Me Elmo doll, called TMX in honor of the Elmo doll's 10th anniversary on the market, as well as for the "extreme" nature of the new toy.
Previous versions of Elmo laughed hysterically in the Sesame Street character's trademark "Ha, ha, ha, ha" when pressed in the stomach. The new version slaps its leg, bends over, falls backwards, rolls on its side and kicks its legs while laughing. It can also right itself back up in a standing position.
Lund's company developed the mechanical technology for the doll's movements.
Lund brought a TMX doll with him to a meeting recently with village officials.
"It's a very ingenious toy," said Gutierrez. "We're always interested in having good businesses in River Forest, and, by all accounts, it appears to be a good business-and a very interesting one."
Mattel Inc.'s Fisher-Price toy division owns the rights to the Elmo doll franchise.
Lund and Company, founded in 1984, has developed other Fisher-Price toys, including the Turbo Tigger of Winnie-the-Pooh fame that did cartwheels, and Eeyore, another Pooh character, that flapped its ears. The new Elmo, which Mattel debuted last month, is priced at $39.99 and is considered the "must-have" toy for the holidays. The doll has sold out at some outlets and is selling at online sites such as Ebay at two or three times more than its retail price.
Lund and Company was not involved in the development of previous Tickle Me Elmos, which is Mattel's most popular toy.