12 things you may not know about Radio Flyer

For more than 100 years, Radio Flyer has created icons of childhood through innovative toys that spark imagination and inspire active outdoor play.

In doing so, the maker of the little red wagon has created an atmosphere at the workplace that has sparked numerous awards and accolades. It most recently was named No. 1 in the small business category in the 2019 Best Places to Work in Illinois awards hosted by the Business Ledger and its sponsoring partners. It joined 68 other companies that apply best business practices and embrace high standards, advancing their business and distinguishing them from competitors.

Best Companies Group of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, administers the program, conducting the surveys, compiling the data and eventually setting the company rankings. While employee satisfaction nationwide averages 41%, the companies honored in the program averaged 90%.

This is the fifth time Radio Flyer has earned the No. 1 designation since the program started in 2006, and when it's not No. 1, it's been among the Top 5 companies during the 10 years it has participated in the program. “This recognition has helped us continue to attract top talent and build our team,” said Chief People Officer Amy Bastuga.

The company also ranked third as Best Places to Work for Women, a new category in the competition. “This helps us achieve our goal of being a best place to work for all,” Bastuga says.

There are many aspects about the company that you may not know. Here are a dozen of them.

1. Radio Flyer is the maker of the little red wagon and the world's leading producer of wagons, tricycles, preschool scooters and other ride-ons. Starting in 1917, the Chicago-based company has more than 100 award-winning products available in over 25 countries.

2. The mission of the company is to bring smiles and create warm memories, and ensure employees are connected to consumers through research and through sharing the stories and photos filled with smiles that consumers send to the company, Bastuga said.

3. The headquarters is located on the West side of Chicago. About half of the workforce live in the suburbs.

4. Radio Flyer is a toy company and fun is a part of the formula, officials there say. The company uses fun titles. For example, employees are called flyers. There is a chief wagon officer, chief people officer and chief innovation officer.

5. There are about 80 employees in Illinois and an influx of interns that join the team over the summer.

6. The company began with a classic story of humble beginnings. Antonio Pasin was in search of a better life and came to America where he found his calling. A skilled cabinet maker, he started manufacturing a wooden coaster wagon in Chicago in 1917, first calling it “Liberty Coaster” for the Statue of Liberty and then changing the name in the late 1920s to Radio Flyer, to capture the fascination with two cutting edge technologies of the time, radio broadcasts and airplane flights. He then pioneered the technique of stamping wagon parts out of steel to mass produce them, earning him the nickname “Little Ford.”

7. The private company has sold more than 100 million wagons in its history.

8. To meet the needs of today's families that are on the go, a number of folding wagons have recently been introduced. The evolution of the wagons has gone from steel to wood over the years.

9. The world's largest wagon that sits outside the Chicago offices is a larger-than-life monument originally created for the company's 80th anniversary celebration. It was inspired by the 45 foot tall “Coaster Boy” model, the Radio Flyer hit of the 1933 World's Fair. It received the Guinness World Record title for Largest Toy Wagon and was featured in the 2019 Guinness World Records Book.

10. The World's Fair exhibit made the Radio Flyer wagon world famous. In fact, during the Depression the company came out with many new ideas to help its popularity. In the mid-30s the company introduced its first specialty wagon, the Streak-O-Lite wagon, which featured streamline train styling, control dials, and working headlights.

11. One of the top sellers today is the Tesla Model S for Kids, a battery-operated ride-on toy. It boasts the exhilarating performance of a Tesla and features the longest run time and fastest recharge time thanks to the use of FlightSpeed Lithium Ion battery technology. This innovative battery powered ride-on for children was created by Radio Flyer in collaboration with Tesla to ensure the highest levels of fun and performance, Bastuga said.

12. The family owners have passed down the original philosophies of the founder. When the founder started the company, it was important to him that everyone was treated with dignity and respect and that he created a great place to work for all. He lived by “The Golden Rule.” He treated others as he would like to be treated. He acted with integrity over his many years leading the company, and it's how his grandson Robert Pasin leads the company.

Great places to work Radio Flyer, Duke Realty, Edward Jones top Business Ledger awards

Images: 2019 Best Places to Work in Illinois awards

Joe Lewnard/jlewnard@dailyherald.comAmy Bastuga, chief people officer of Radio Flyer in Chicago.
Joe Lewnard/jlewnard@dailyherald.comDisplay at Radio Flyer in Chicago.
  Radio Flyer's founding family established a reputation of treating all employees with dignity and respect. Joe Lewnard/
  Wagons on display at Radio Flyer in Chicago. Joe Lewnard/
  The Radio Flyer building on Chicago's West Side. Joe Lewnard/
Wagons on display.
The Radio Flyer building in Chicago at night. Photo courtesy of Radio Flyer
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