In the little Panhandle town of Happy, Texas, Jerry Sims builds tough, ranch-inspired toys that are delighting ranch-inspired children (and their parents) everywhere.
Made in Texas: The Happy Toy Maker
In this recurring series, we visit the best product brands in the Lone Star State, and introduce you to the Texans behind them. Our Made in Texas series is an extension of our popular 2013 publication, Texas Works: Products and Portraits of Talent. Photos by Whitney Devin.
It’s called “the town without a frown,” and in tiny Happy, Texas (population, 650 or so), there’s at least one gentleman doing his part to keep the happiness vibe alive.
Meet Jerry Sims, aka the Happy Toymaker, a moniker he shares with his successful toy company. From his workshop on an unassuming ranch house just outside of town, Jerry makes awesome, ranch-inspired toys.
By “ranch-inspired”, we mean toys that replicate the real working equipment you’d find on any present-day Texas ranch, like overhead cake bins, feedlots, stalls and corrals, loading chutes, and—our favorite—semi trucks.
As with many great business, the Happy Toymaker was born of demand. Jerry’s own children wanted to play with toys that resembled the equipment they grew up around. Not surprisingly, there were no such toys available in the marketplace. So, Jerry built them himself.
That was many years ago. He’s built hundreds of toys since then, with customers all over Texas and far beyond.
These aren’t typical toys. For one thing, they're realistic, with moving parts and pretty accurate to scale. Most notably, they're tough: made of steel, and heavy, with edges that are a more raw than refined. And that's refreshing. In an age when schools have banned activities like tag and even running at recess, it's nice to know that some parents aren't coddling the fun out of their children's upbringing. Toys by the Happy Toymaker are for gritty children, the kind who'd rather post a fence than download an app--and who know how to do so.
We visited Jerry at his place in Happy, Texas. Wandering around town before our tour, the first thing we learned was that Jerry is a well-liked gentleman among his neighbors. In addition to being a toymaker and all around pleasant gentleman, Jerry has, for a long time, served both as fire chief of the volunteer fire department as well as EMS director. To everyone outside of Happy, he's the maker of great toys, but to folks around Happy, he's more akin to a hero who happens to make toys.
and photographed the process, from fabricating the raw steel to adding the finishing touches, like the paint applied by Jerry's own mother. Enjoy this photo tour of The Happy Toymaker.