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Issue Date: June 2008


Concocting An Empire

After building a national brand on teaching how to turn around-the-house products into family memories, John and Danita Thomas are now working to make Kid Concoctions a multimedia entity
Jennifer Keirn
They’ve inspired an entire generation of parents to save their dryer lint and coffee grounds. They’ve done for cornstarch, Borax and quick-dry plaster what Oprah’s done for books. And they’ve created untold numbers of family moments cooking up mixtures such as Gooey Gunk or Super Sidewalk Paint.

Now John and Danita Thomas — the Strongsville couple who created the kids’ craft concept Kid Concoctions — are building a national multimedia and retail empire centered around their brand.

It’s a why-didn’t-I-think-of-that premise: recipes that allow parents to recreate popular kids’ toys using household ingredients for less than a buck per project.

“It’s all about getting back to the basics, getting back to the kitchen table,” says John. “You’re not going to remember that high score on Super Mario 10 years from now, but you will remember making Gooey Gunk with Mom and Dad.”

Kid Concoctions started out as a how-to video in 1991, spawning a homemade book that sold out in hours at the 1996 Baby & Toddler Show at the I-X Center.

The Thomases then entered the retail arena in 2006 with a Kid Concoctions store at SouthPark Center and seasonal operations at amusement parks such as Dollywood and Branson’s Silver Dollar City. Now, based on that template the Thomases are franchising Kid Concoctions retail stores nationwide.

And if that tune you hear playing in the Kid Concoctions store seems to actually be about Gooey Gunk, you’re not imagining things.

Musical theater buff John enlisted the help of Broadway producing/song-writing duo Jason Howland and Dani Davis to create Kid Concoctions NFusion, a pop group that will appear in Kid Concoctions stores, attractions, videos and a new half-hour TV program in development.

“It’s a how-to musical sitcom where the concoctions are used to carry the story line of the show,” explains John. “Like ‘High School Musical,’ but with a how-to element added to it.”

An NFusion tour and new amusement park locations are on the horizon for the Kid Concoctions pair. Branded craft kits and supplies can also be found on shelves at Michaels’ 900-plus North American stores, with more retail products to come.

“It’s been really fun to watch John and Danita morph into this cottage industry,” says Terry Moir, director of local programming at Channel 3, who booked John’s first TV appearance on NewsChannel 5’s “Morning Exchange” more than 15 years ago. “He came across as this ball of energy on the phone,” Moir remembers. “We had him on and he was wildly popular with viewers.”

Despite the fact that the Thomases have devoted nearly two decades to demonstrating projects such as Scratch & Sniff Watercolorsover and over and over, they still display a wow-look-at-that enthusiasm for their material.

“John’s the same guy who we put on the show all those years ago,” she says. “They have such a deep passion for what they’re doing, and it shows.”

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