by Pete Mazzaccaro
Anyone with a child in elementary or middle school is probably now very familiar with the Rainbow Loom, a plastic loom that hundreds of thousands of children are using to weave rubber bands into scores of colorful bracelets.
On Saturday, some 20 entrepreneurial children will set up shop on the sidewalk in front of O’Doodles Toy Store, 8532 Germantown Ave., to sell their creations from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Store owner Fran O’Donnell said his store sells a dozen of the small plastic looms a day and sells even more of the colorful rubber band refill packs.
“It’s really amazing,” he said of the very popular toy. “I was skeptical when the fad started around Memorial Day, but it never slowed down through the summer. Now it’s popular with girls and boys.”
The Rainbow Loom, invented by Malaysian immigrant Cheong Choon Ng, who designed a wooden prototype to help his daughters who were making rubber band bracelets. He sank $10,000 – his life savings – into manufacturing the loom and marketing it. It took off this year and has become one of the most sought-after toys.
O’Donnell said the looms have been a bit of a specialty item, and that people have flocked from across Philadelphia and Montgomery County to find it. He said he’s had to keep a regular inventory of rubber band refills, which he placed on the store’s website where loom owners check regularly for stock.
O’Donnell said the idea for “a bazaar” where children could come and sell their creations is the result of children contacting him by email. One girl recently sold her bracelets at the store as a school fund-raiser. She sold enough to easily raise the money she needed.
“The lemonade stand has become the band stand,” he said, referring to the loom’s rubber bands.
O’Donnell, who has positioned his store as a puddle of “unplugged fun,” said the Rainbow Loom’s popularity has been a boon for the parents who’ve purchased them.
“It’s great,” he said. “It takes the kids off of the iPods. They’re very proud of what they make. You can’t get that satisfaction from competing in a video game.”
In fact, O’Donnell said he has seen other simple toys and games surge in popularity, too, from yo-yos and board games to a new take on the ancient ball and cup on a stick called Kendama.
“The whole idea that this has caught on in an age where everything has a remote control is pretty incredible,” he said.