The American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) is paying tribute to International Playthings (now Epoch Everlasting Play) founder Ted Kiesewetter, who passed away on May 24, 2019.

“Thanks to his long toy career, most of it at the helm of International Playthings — there isn’t much about the emergence of the specialty toy industry that Kiesewetter didn’t help to create and witness firsthand,” says Kimberly Mosley, president of ASTRA. “He was truly a giant in our industry and his sensible, thoughtful voice as one of our go-to elder statesmen will be missed.”

In a statement issued by ASTRA, the organization notes that Kiesewetter came into the toy industry in the late 1960s when, in his own words, “there was very little interest in quality developmental toys.” He was instrumental in driving the development of quality specialty play products with high play value as an alternative to mass market toys, and the channels needed to get them in the hands of children whose families increasingly recognized the importance of play in healthy child development. 

Kiesewetter received ASTRA’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014, a fitting honor for an early supporter of specialty retail, and co-founder of Playing for Keeps, which promoted healthy children’s play.

Kiesewetter retired in 2006, following the sale of International Playthings to Grand Toys International. The company was later sold to the Epoch Co., which rebranded it as Epoch Everlasting Play in 2017.