Oriental Trading Company

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Oriental Trading Company
Industry Direct marketing
Founded 1932; 85 years ago (1932)
Founder Harry Watanabe
Headquarters Omaha, Nebraska, US
Area served
Key people
Sam Taylor (CEO)[1][2]
Products 40,000
Owner Berkshire Hathaway
Number of employees
est. 2,000 [3]
Subsidiaries MindWare Holdings, Inc.[4]
OTC Direct Inc.
Website orientaltrading.com

The Oriental Trading Company is a direct merchant of value-priced party supplies, arts and crafts, toys and novelties and school supplies.[6] It was founded in 1932 as one of the United States' first wholesaling companies. Orient Trading has been recognized as one of the Top 100 Internet Retailers and one of the Top 50 Catalog Companies. It is based in Omaha, Nebraska, and it is owned by Berkshire Hathaway[7][8]


The company was founded as a gift shop in 1932 in Omaha, Nebraska by Harry Watanabe. The company expanded to 17 shops in the Midwest. During World War II, with restrictions against imports from Japan, the company shrank back to its Omaha base. Watanabe then bought a ceramic shop which made Kewpie dolls and other ceramic items.[9]

In 1954 it resumed its imports from Japan and was a major carnival supplier and in 1956 it launched its first catalog.[10]

In 1977 Watanabe's son Terry Watanabe became president and its focus shifted from carnivals to supplying party goods for churches, schools, retailers, and individuals.[citation needed]

In 2000, Watanabe sold his entire stake in the company to Los Angeles-based private equity firm Brentwood Associates, and resigned as CEO and President.[11]

In 2006 The Carlyle Group bought 68 percent interest in the company with Brentwood owning a reported 25 percent.[12]

On August 24, 2010, Oriental Trading Company via OTC Holdings Corp. declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.[13]

On November 2, 2012, Berkshire Hathaway announced they would acquire the company.[14][15]

Orient Trading acquired MindWare Holdings, Inc. in 2013 and SmileMakers in 2014. MindWare is a manufacturer, wholesaler, and direct retailer of "brainy toys for kids of all ages" that complements the Oriental Trading family of educational products. SmileMakers is the leading brand catering to the dental and healthcare markets.[citation needed]

The company's CEO appeared in the March 10, 2012, episode of the TV show Undercover Boss.[16]



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