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What You Can Learn From the Most Modern Old-Fashioned Toy Co…

If you just read the buzzwords — “3-D printer” “makerspace” and “Kickstarter” — Vlad Dragusin’s company Candylab could sound like a lot of Brooklyn startups. Except his company doesn’t maintain an app or deliver laundry on demand  — it sells wooden toy cars.

That’s right — just wooden cars. No virtual reality. No augmented anything. Just simple, charming heirloom cars. To be fair, these are a step beyond what you might have had in your toy box as a child. Think: 1965 Land Rovers, Airstream trailers, ‘60s muscle cars and Mopar racers.

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Growing up in Romania, Dragusin developed a love for hot rods and classic American car design. Candylab’s toys showcase that passion with cars designed to the smallest details — from the placement of the headlights to the tread on the tires and choosing just right shades of blue or green.

Of course, getting such high-design cars to market isn’t as simple as you might think. Their precise angles and cross-grain cuts weren’t always easy to support by traditional tools.

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So Candylab would use 3-D printing technology to create not just its prototypes but the tools and jigs that manufacturers would need to produce them, tinkering at New Lab, a Brooklyn makerspace for manufacturers with both large format 3-D printers and a woodshop. “We have to physically make our tools and jigs here, put them in our luggage and ship them out with us,” says Dragusin, a trained architect.

The result is a toy that stands apart — one that’s rugged enough for an 8-year-old to race and elegant enough for a car-loving grandfather to show off on his desk. This attention to design has helped Candylab find key retail placement in high-design spots like Colette in Paris and The Design Museum in London and raise approximately $700,000 through a series of Kickstarter campaigns. The company has been profitable from its start and has seen 40 percent year-over-year growth.  

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