The little souvenir bottle filled with seashells and sand that you brought back to Milwaukee from Sanibel Island may have made a round trip.
That’s because your keepsake, which evokes memories of golden days on the beach, could have been made by Visionary Products, a Glendale company that does a million-dollar business in beach bubble ornaments, starfish-wearing sunglasses and trinket boxes topped with mermaids.
“We brought some of the creativity of the gift industry to souvenirs,” said owner Peter Engel, who started the company in 1991. Engel sells beach souvenirs to shops in resort towns across the United States and the Virgin Islands. Major cruise lines and Las Vegas casinos also are on the customer list.
Engel and his staff of eight work in an office/warehouse complex on N. Sidney Place, which serves as a headquarters and production facility for the business.
Workers dye tiny seashells and then mix them with other trinkets, which are combined with sand to make tiny beach scenes in bottles or clear plastic bubbles. Other workers then print names of vacation destinations and cruise lines on the finished product.
The business is doing well despite the sluggish economy because his products are inexpensive yet permanent remembrances, Engel said.
“People may not buy more expensive items, but they’ll buy $5 to $10 items,” he said. In addition, the devaluation of the U.S. dollar has boosted his sales to souvenir shops overseas.
Photo by Gary Porter.