CPSIA Casualty of the Week for May 10, 2010:
Beloved Minnesota toy store The Essence of Nonsense Closed by the CPSIA
Tom Fletcher and his business partner Barbara Anderson-Sannes opened The Essence of Nonsense toy store 14 years ago dedicated to selling unique, high-quality toys out of their St, Paul, Minnesota shop. Offering an array of the best handmade toys from small domestic toymakers and traditional European manufacturers, The Essence of Nonsense became an important retail destination in the local community.
After the CPSIA imposed new restrictions on the toy industry, Tom and Barbara found that their suppliers greatly reduced the range of products available. Even more disturbing, they also noticed that the quality of products was rapidly deteriorating. Rather than sell inferior quality products, they decided to close the store. This was no “victory” for safety – their store had never experienced a recall of any of its specialized products.
“CPSIA cut our choices in half,” says Tom Fletcher. “Some small companies stopped selling or disappeared and the bigger companies, realizing they were the only options, started to reduce quality to save money for themselves. So, we decided to close in large part because the quality of our product offering was changing and the choices were becoming so limited.”
“It’s not that we’re against the [CPSIA-imposed] testing,” Fletcher continued. “It’s just that we need a fair application across the board. Small businesses can’t afford to hire the necessary testers which puts them at a significant disadvantage and can even put them out of business.”
Tragically, the closing of The Essence of Nonsense is a cautionary tale about how the overly-restrictive burdens of the new product safety regime can destroy small businesses and imperil their unique products. On the back of a precautionary law, a wave of destruction is carrying away the life’s work of many small businesspeople.
“When you pick up a handmade toy,” Fletcher says, “you can feel the dedication and effort that went into making it. Someone really loved making that toy. If something isn’t done to protect small businesses, handmade toys will be gone soon. People will look back and say, ‘we had this when I was a kid and we don’t have it anymore.’”