Family Ties: Craft businesses pass their torch from generation to generation (Part 1 – The Mangelsens)

While compiling the article, “Family Ties: Craft businesses pass their torch from generation to generation,which will appear in CHA’s magazine, Craft Industry Today (Fall 2012, Vol. 1, No.3) we were fascinated by the amount of family-owned companies, each with their own unique stories, within our industry.  In the upcoming weeks we will be expanding on this article and sharing CHA member stories on our Blog.  In the coming weeks we’ll be featuring stories from the following members and more:  Momenta (previously American Traditional Stencils), Hobby Lobby, Dee’s Delights and Beacon Adhesives.

The Mangelsen Family

By Mike Hartnett

The Mangelsen family has probably contributed as much to the growth of the craft industry as anyone.

Harold and Bernice opened a Ben Franklin variety store in Omaha in 1961. They had four sons, Bill, Tom, David, and Harold (“Hal”), Jr. who lived with their parents behind the store. Bill, the oldest, began working with his father when he was 13 and officially joined the family’s business at 18.

A decade into its existence, the family wanted to convert the store into an all-craft operation, but the executives at the corporate Ben Franklin said no. So the family dropped the Ben Franklin affiliation and converted to a more crafty format, HD Mangelsen & Sons.

Another family named Dupey operated Ben Franklin stores in the Dallas area, and son Mike heard about the Mangelsens’ store conversion. He visited Omaha and returned home convinced they had the right idea. Mike converted his stores and that was the birth of what is now the Michaels chain and the craft superstore.

The Mangelsens affected far more than retailing, however.

Bill made his first buying trip to Hong Kong in 1971and in 1977 Bill attended the Canton Fair in China for the first time. It was here that Bill met a number of suppliers and expanded his Far Eastern business relationships. While visiting various factories in Shanghai, Fujian, and Guangdong provinces, Bill realized there were many products which could be made in China and sold in the U.S. and Europe.

In 1973 the family opened a wholesale operation and became one of the industry’s premier distributors and importers.

Bill moved to Hong Kong and set up a buying office for the family business in 1979. His wife Ramona and their children joined him in 1980. Bill’s family suffered a tragedy with the loss of their 13-year-old daughter, Mary, in September, 1980, due to a congenital heart disorder. Bill and his family returned to Omaha, and approximately six months later their 10-year-old son, Paul, was struck and killed by a car while riding his bicycle.

Bill closed his office in Hong Kong to allow him more time to spend with his family and to care for their six-year-old daughter, Annie. They later had two additional children, Jennifer in 1983 and Michael in 1989.

In 1992, Bill joined the Greensward Company, serving in various capacities over thirteen years including Director, responsible for strategic planning, legal matters, sales, creative directing, public relations, and new product development. He left in 2005 to launch his own company; Sino Harvest Limited, to produce Makin’s Clay®, a new type of polymer clay modeling medium. It was introduced to the craft market in 2003 as “The No Bake Polymer Clay®.” Bill soon expanded the Makin’s Brand® to include product tools and accessories.

In 2006, Bill and daughter Annie started Makin’s USA, Inc., an import business providing Makin’s Brand® products to distributors and retailers in the U.S. and Canada.

Bill died in Hong Kong at the age of 64 in 2008 due to complications from pneumonia.  He was posthumously awarded CHA’s Industry Achievement award in 2009.

As an innovator, businessman and eventually an inventor and entrepreneur, Bill leaves a legacy that began at the family variety store when he was just 18. Bill is considered by many of his colleagues in the industry as a pioneer of the China import business.

And the Mangelsen influence continues. Bill’s daughter, Annie, is head of Makin’s Clay, which is now sold in more than 48 countries. Bill’s brother, David, still operates the store, David M. Mangelsen’s in Omaha, now assisted by his three children, Marla, David, and Matt. Hal has his own import company, Midwest Design Imports. The only son of Harold and Bernice not involved in the industry is Tom, who went on to become a world-renown nature photographer.

23 thoughts on “Family Ties: Craft businesses pass their torch from generation to generation (Part 1 – The Mangelsens)

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  10. Pingback: Family Ties: A CHA Blog Video Exclusive With Beacon Adhesives « CHA Blog

  11. Pingback: Family Ties: Craft businesses pass their torch from generation to generation (Part 4 – Katie Hacker & Dee’s Delights) « CHA Blog

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