Keith DeWitt was looking for a unique present for his new granddaughter when he stumbled upon a Web site, selling a lion kiddie ride for $2,000.

As a big-game hunter, DeWitt thought the ride would make a nice addition to his trophy room above the garage. And it would be something his grandchildren would enjoy using when they visited. The 53-year-old DeWitt, who is semi-retired from the poultry industry, says he has fond memories of going on such rides each week outside the grocery store when he was young. “That was a fun time,” he says.

Coin-operated kiddie rides were once ubiquitous in supermarkets, shopping malls and outside the corner store. Fewer of the brightly colored fiberglass contraptions exist in such places these days, however, as the cost of rental space has gone up and the companies that operate the rides say it’s getting harder to make a profit.

But thanks to Kiddie Rides USA, some of these pieces of Americana are finding their way to a new market. Kiddie Rides buys old units from the companies that operate the rides, then it refurbishes and sells them, at a fraction of their original cost, directly to individuals and businesses — ice-cream shops, pediatricians’ offices, hair salons, museums — that traditionally wouldn’t house them.

Kiddie Rides has been able to breathe new life into these old rides by playing on the nostalgia factor. The idea is that people who have sentimental memories of the product from their youth will purchase or use it to introduce it to their own children or grandchildren. Many of the businesses Mr. Carson sells to cater to children, who, of course, come accompanied by parents or grandparents. And, just as important, the rides have been a hit with the kids directly.

Photo by Kiddie Rides.

Originally posted by Rich Whittle on January 11, 2010 in History.

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