Building An International Brand - Learn How At May 24 Breakfast

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May 05, 2016
Ulster County is home to many growing and dynamic businesses, but perhaps none more recognizable in name than Woodstock Chimes and Tonner Dolls. Both have grown into recognizable brands around the world and the CEOs of those companies have offered to speak to chamber members about some of the secrets to their success.
The guest speakers at the May 24th chamber breakfast meeting will be Garry Kvistad, owner of Woodstock Chimes in Shokan, and Robert Tonner, owner of the Tonner Doll Co. in Kingston. “Building an International Brand,” is the subject of their presentation, scheduled from 7:30-9 a.m. at the Kingston Best Western Plus.
Tonner, a world-renowned doll sculptor and creator, said he would first show business leaders what his company does because “No. 1 in building an international brand is having the right product.”
Tonner began his career in New York’s Garment District. He designed the Blassport label for many years, catching the eye of the fashion world’s trend-spotters. He started the Robert Tonner Doll Co. in a one-room studio 21 years ago.
His “muse” Tyler Wentworth, arguably the most famous of his dolls, is based on a fictional 7th Avenue fashion designer.
He has since equaled the Wentworth success with countless other collectible dolls representing characters from “Gone With the Wind,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “Twilight,” “Harry Potter” as well as super heroes like Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman.
Tonner said he would share with business leaders how he got his company noticed.
“I had to set the company apart from the competition in the states and then get noticed wherever else,” he said. “I also plan to discuss how I see growing the foothold that we have overseas.”
Tonner calls himself “the reluctant businessman” and said he is never in a hurry to offer advice.
“However, there are areas in business culture that we’re pretty good at here,” he said. “Also, I’d want to say look for the help out there—I’ve found local and state government eager to help.”
Tonner Doll ( sells products in more than 40 countries.
“Collectibles are having a rough go of it at the moment because of the economy, but we continue to build interest overseas,” he said.
“A big challenge that we face constantly is keeping pricing competitive and keeping quality at a certain level. Because we manufacture overseas, market forces play a big role in the bottom line.”
Kvistad said he plans to discuss not only how to create a brand, but a category for a product that didn’t exist before. Woodstock Chimes offers a variety of unique, musically tuned wind chimes, bells and gongs, crystal sun catchers and other musical products.
He also will offer his insights on manufacturing here and abroad, employment issues and “the creative process.”
“I will also talk about why we moved to this region from the Midwest,” Kvistad said.
Kvistad and his wife, Diane, were 29 years old and teachers when they visited Ulster County over Easter in 1979, drawn to the area by its artistic reputation.
The couple settled here and opened Woodstock Percussion.
 “The name is important,” he said. “The quality is important. The authenticity of what you do is very important these days.”
“I’m a professional musician and that is important. My whole business is built around sounds and music. It’s really important for our manufacturing that the quality goes into the sound-producing element and that’s kind of unique.”
Kvistad writes blogs on his website (, which is chock-full of information about his company and what it does.
“It’s important for people to read about what you do and understand it and respect it,” he said. “I’ve also learned that rather than spend a lot of money on legal protections, such as patents, we’ve put our emphasis and energy into marketing.”
Kvistad said about 10 percent of his company’s sales are overseas.
“It’s growing right now in England, Germany and Canada especially,” he said.
Kvistad, who employs 40 people, said health care is a major cost, but the company provides full coverage and 401k plans to keep talented people.
While the company’s manufacturing operations are all abroad, Kvisted said he puts a lot of effort into training.
“People are concerned about jobs leaving this country, but in our case, if we hadn’t moved the manufacturing overseas, we would have been out of business within a couple of years,” he said. “Our competitors were all there. We retained 40 really good jobs that otherwise wouldn’t be there.”
Kvistad said he also may touch on the charitable arm of his business, the Woodstock Chimes Fund.
“We help sponsor and support lots of organizations and people,” he said.

Chamber breakfast programs are a great way to network with other local business leaders and stay on top of current events. Pre-registration is strongly encouraged. For more information or to register, call the Chamber at (845) 338-5100 or go online at

Ward Todd, President/CEO
(845) 338-5100