Columbus will soon be home to the operations for the largest independent toy wholesale distributor in the world. As of February 1, 2016, locally-based Disburst will purchase Los Angeles-based DKE Toys.
DKE has been in the toy business for over two decades and an independent wholesale distributor for 10 years. Over time the operation has curated a list of close to 200 vendors from around the world, creating anywhere from one to a large number of toys.
“The products themselves really run the gamut of the artists that create them,” says Disburst CEO Scott Kuenzli.
Columbus-based Kuenzli met DKE Owner Dov Kelemer at Comic-Con in San Diego. Regulars at the convention, they would discuss what each was working on when, “[Dov] told me a couple of years ago that he was looking to maybe get out of what he’s doing,” Kuenzli says.
Kelemer had just started a family and the 80+ hour weeks that sometimes come with being an entrepreneur just weren’t a fit anymore.
“He finally announced in June of this year  that he was retiring from the wholesale business,” Kuenzli says.
He reached out to see if DKE had a buyer or if the announcement was a way to drum one up, but selling the business wasn’t actually something that had been on Kelemer’s radar. He had never done it before.
Kuenzli took a closer look at the operation over the following months, found himself a business partner, and then, couldn’t really find a reason not to buy DKE.
Kuenzli’s own background is in the industry, too. He’s been in the collectibles market for quite some time – a collector himself in the 90s, and behind the scenes at wife Laura Kuenzli’s Short North designer toy and art gallery, Rivet, since its inception.
He and partner Kent Boelling formed Disburst to purchase the wholesale operations from DKE. Kuenzli calls it a quasi-purchase-slash-merger. Disburst is buying the operations but not the company. DKE and Kelemer will stay on board to provide services like brokering deals, handling vendor management relationships and product development – the aspects the owner liked about the business in the first place.
Disburst will be split between its current spot in LA and Columbus.
“What’s happening immediately in Columbus is we are moving the back office to Columbus,” Kuenzli says.
Sales, payroll, marketing and financial operations will all be headquartered locally, while warehousing and fulfillment will remain on the coast for the time being. Because many of the products come from overseas through the port of Long Beach, it didn’t made sense to add another across-the-country leg to the distribution. However, as the company continues to grow, Kuenzli could see adding a Columbus warehouse.
Disburst has a lot of other ideas for how it will expand the operation. The goal is to be in a lot more markets with a larger array of products and a much more diverse set of retail clients than the company currently has.
“There is a lot of markets that [DKE]’s not really pushed into simply because of time constraints and the inability to allocate resources to those markets,”Kuenzli says.
The more artisan, collectible toy line currently organized by the distributor normally lands in mom and pop shops, art galleries and various collectible stores, but Disburst hopes to add representation for some toy lines that have more growth potential and a broader customer base.
At the February takeover, Kuenzli and Boelling will leverage their years of skill and industry experience to improve the business’ infrastructure to get things off and running.