Oriental Trading Company

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Oriental Trading Company
Industry Direct Marketing
Founded 1932
Founder Harry Watanabe
Headquarters Omaha, Nebraska
Area served
Products 40,000
Owner Berkshire Hathaway
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. It was founded in 1932 as one of the United States' first wholesale 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 its majority owner is Berkshire Hathaway.


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.[1]

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

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.[2]

In 2006 Carlyle Group bought 68 percent interest in the company with Brentwood owning a reported 25 percent.[3]

On August 24, 2010, Oriental Trading Company via OTC Holdings Corp. declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.[4]

On November 2, 2012, Berkshire Hathaway announced they would acquire the company.[5][6]

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.

Popular Culture

The company's CEO was featured in the March 10, 2012, episode of the TV show Undercover Boss.[7]


  1. "About Oriental Trading". Oriental Trading. Retrieved July 6, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Metro/Region". Omaha.com. Retrieved 2010-09-28.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[dead link]
  3. Oriental Trading Sold multichannelmerchant.com - June 13, 2006
  4. McCarty, Dawn (2010-08-25). "Oriental Trading Co. Files for Bankruptcy in Delaware". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2010-09-28.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Michael J. De La Merced (November 2, 2012). "Berkshire to Buy Oriental Trading Company". The New York Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Berkshire Hathaway to Acquire Oriental Trading Company" (PDF) (Press release). Berkshire Hathaway. November 2, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Fastenberg, Dan (March 12, 2012). "Workers At Party Supply Company Far From Festive During 'Undercover Boss' Episode". AOL. Retrieved July 6, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links