Harry Watanabe founded the Oriental Trading as a gift shop in Omaha , Nebraska in 1932 and grew it to a chain of 17 shops selling wholesale value-priced novelty & gift items.
When imports from Japan were restricted during WWII, the company shrank. Watanabe bought a factory that made kewpie dolls and other ceramic items. He used this to keep building his gift item business.
In 1954 Watanabe resumed importing and started the catalog, becoming a major supplier to the carnival trade in the United States in the fifties.
In the 1970s and ’80s the Oriental Trading Company catalog expanded and the company’s direct marketing efforts were tested and refined.
In 1977, the founder’s son, Terrance Watanabe, shifted focus from carnivals to supplying party goods for schools, churches, as well as retailers, and individuals. In 2000, Terrance sold his entire stake in the company and resigned.
Although the company has had some trying times in recent decades, it is now a part of the Berkshire Hathaway family of companies and has been acquiring other toy brands.
The company still specializes in party supplies, toys, craft supplies, school supplies and other novelty and gift products. Oriental Trading is also a sort of umbrella company for a host of other catalogs that offer birthday supplies, “DIY décor”, and “wow-worthy” ideas for fun.
Today Oriental Trading Company is “recognized as one of the Top 50 Internet Retailers and one of the Top 50 Catalog Companies”
Oriental Trading Official website
Oriental Trading Store on America’s Top Online Retailer