Toys as a Life Mission
The history of the Ostheimer company
For more than 80 years, toys have been understood as a life mission in the Ostheimer family and its successors. The love and dedication for making high-quality wooden toys, meant to promote the healthy development and creative play of children, have been passed on over three generations and can be felt throughout the company upto this day.
The family's first toy company is founded
Inspired by the company “Waldorf Toys”, where Walter and Adeline Ostheimer worked in the 1920s and 30s, Margarete Ostheimer's parents found their own wooden toy company in 1939. With a lot of creativity and joy, the two pursue their impulse to produce beautiful, good toys for children.
After the family's townhouse in Stuttgart is bombed out, the family moves to Unterwössen in Upper Bavaria in 1943 with their small company, then registered under the name “Klaus Spielzeug,” and successfully sets up a new location there.
In the 1950s, wooden toys are almost completely driven off the market by modern plastic toys from the USA, and Klaus Spielzeug goes out of business.
Margarete Ostheimer develops the characteristic Ostheimer design and finds success
But the love for wooden toys lives on in the Ostheimer family, and so Walter and Adeline Ostheimer, who work as caregivers for disabled people in Bavaria at the time, start making wooden toys again in 1958.
A year later, their then 29-year-old daughter Margarete Ostheimer moves in with them and starts working in production. Together they expand the range of toys.
Initially with her father, Margarete Ostheimer develops the distinctive style of Ostheimer wooden figures, which can still be recognized in today’s toys and has become famous around the world. Over the years she designs many of the groups of figures that are considered classics now. This period marks the birth of the original Ostheimer design and also the Ostheimer wooden toy brand.
In 1965, Walter Ostheimer dies in Munich after a serious illness. Two years later, Margarete and Adeline Ostheimer move their tiny family business known as “Pedagogical Wooden Toys Margarete Ostheimer” to Zell unter Aichelberg, where they continue their toy production in a small apartment with a double garage. In the following years, people’s awareness for the positive qualities of wooden products grows significantly in Germany and the demand for wooden toys also increases steadily. The two women hire the first home workers and soon the first permanent employees follow. The collection of wooden figures is constantly expanded and the figures from the Ostheimer nativity scene begin to conquer the world. Since the end of the 70s, the products are marked with the Ostheimer logo - first with a brand stamp, later with a normal stamp. The association of the characteristic figures with the Ostheimer name creates brand awareness among customers.
In 1982, the company is able to build its first proper company building, a residential house with an attached workshop, a storage facility for wood, and a shipping department. Due to the steadily growing demand, the company continues to grow in the following years and is expanded with additional buildings. In 1994, Adeline Ostheimer dies at the old age of 94. She remained closely connected to the company's workers and activities until the end and followed its path to prosperity with loving interest.
Ostheimer on the way into the 21st century
In the mid-1990s, Wolfgang Schühle, who had already played an important role in the company’s management for years, and Stephan Zech are appointed managing directors by Margarete Ostheimer. Stephan Zech had previously taken over the product design from her. Now, catalogs are printed regularly and the brand reaches more and more people.
In 2001, another important step in the history of Ostheimer takes place: Margarete Ostheimer retires from the company and transfers it from private ownership to the non-profit Walter and Adeline Ostheimer Foundation, which she founded.
In the following years, Ostheimer incorporates the brands Kinderkram (2003) and Konrad Keller (2011) and thus further expands its product range with additional high-quality wooden toys.
In 2012, Ostheimer seizes the potential of social media and begins communicating directly with its customers online. It becomes easier to get a personal impression of the company’s unique approach to toy manufacturing and its sincere commitment to social causes. In 2015, Sibylle Engstrom, who had been a member of the Ostheimer Foundation's Board of Directors since 2001, is appointed managing director. In the same year, Stephan Zech retires from management for health reasons, but he remains responsible for designing Ostheimer toys to this day.
Margarete Ostheimer passes away in late 2018.
Wolfgang Schühle, who worked in and shaped the company with conviction and enthusiasm for 35 years, also goes into his well-deserved retirement.
Today, Sibylle Engstrom leads Ostheimer with a dedicated team of colleagues who carry forward the company's impulse and put their professionalism in its service.