September 23, 2020

Playmill toy factory in Atkinson sold at auction

ATKINSON — The Playmill, an international toy manufacturing business in Atkinson, has been sold. The equipment, inventory, patterns and trade name were purchased at an auction held Thursday at the site.

According to Sharon Kallweit, former owner and operator of the business, Lauri of Phillips made the purchase. Kallweit told reporters that Lauri is connected with the Avon Co. and manufactures rubber puzzles. She said the business would relocate in Phillips. She said the closure of a moccasin factory in that western Maine community had resulted in Lauri’s interest in the building.

Kallweit said employees of the Playmill had been offered jobs at the Phillips site if they wished to relocate. She said she had no idea what the former Playmill employees would do.

Kallweit was her usual self Thursday morning as the factory, machinery, equipment and inventory went under the auctioneer’s hammer. She visited with friends and former employees as they assembled, along with many strangers, to watch the action.

Several officials of Keenan Auction Co. of Kingfield handled the sale. The factory opened in 1973 and until March 1990 manufactured wooden toys and puzzles of all types. Kallweit said she spent many 18-hour days supervising and working at the mill. She said she designed, manufactured and sold the items that the company made.

At the height of the business, there were 15 full-time employees and 30 seasonal ones. According to Jo-Anne Eaton, general manager of the Playmill, the business has been undercapitalizedcq for some time. She said she and Kallweit decided that the best thing to do was to sell. She said that people looking at the business before the auction thought that with more capital, the Playmill could run smoothly and profitably.

At the time of the sale, there were three potential buyers and all three thought the business could be run on a profitable basis.

Eaton said that she and Kallweit would have preferred to have seen the business sold as one unit if possible. Before the auction, both felt that if there were not a buyer for the business, the factory might possibly leave the area, which both thought would hurt the local economy.

Eaton said the reason for the sale was that, unfortunately, the business was in a distress situation and the sale had to be expedited. According to Kallweit on Friday, the new owners of the equipment had moved a great deal of the machinery out of the building to the Phillips site.

Kallweit said the factory building itself is still available. She said the property consisted of the factory and 78 acres of land that included 12,000 pine trees. She said the factory would be an ideal location for a sheltered workshop-type business or a mini-conference center.

The Kallweit home is also for sale. It was not included in the auction. The property consists of a 6,000-square-foot, six-bedroom home, which includes a sauna and atrium. Kallweit said the only items that were sold at the auction were the Playmill trade name, the equipment in the factory and the inventory of toys and puzzles.

Kallweit told reporters she plans to relocate in the Portland-Gorham area as soon as possible. She said she has prospects of work but that “a whole new world” is opening to her. She said she hopes to be able to work with the youth of today in preparing them for the 21st century.

She has three children, Hakahon, who lives in Germany; Kaia, who is living in Portland and will be attending college there in the fall; and Myan, who will be entering the eighth grade this fall.

At 5 p.m. Saturday, July 28, Kallweit is holding a party for the “Friends of the Playmill” at her Atkinson home. She has invited employees and former employees, friends, neighbors and area residents to attend. She said “anyone is welcome to attend; the guest list is not limited.” She recommended those planning to attend for supper should bring an item for the supper.

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