Bryan Millar ditched the corporate world to pursue his passion for making toys.
However, over Easter weekend Millar’s dream turned sour when his Waiuku workshop had more than $20,000 worth of tools, materials and toys stolen.
Millar returned from a holiday in Akaroa with his eight-year-old daughter last week, to find his workshop had been raided.
“I looked around and my heart just sank – it was just all gone,” Millar said.
More than 25 years worth of wood-working tools had been stolen in an instant.
“It’s really tough to try to put a price on all the tools you’ve bought over a 25-year period doing woodwork.”
Pioneer Wooden Toys was established in 1980 by Murry Neales in Paerata, near Pukekohe.
Millar said the business built a reputation for producing good-quality wooden toys for local kindergartens and pre-schools.
Two years ago, Millar bought the business from Neales and decided to follow his passion for woodwork and toy making after working in sales and marketing for 25 years.
“I walked away from the corporate world to do something I loved and enjoy which is making toys.”
The shift into toy making had been worthwhile, Millar said.
“The kids think I’m Santa when I walk into the preschool, especially when I walk in with a big order. [of toys]
“It’s a tremendously satisfying job, we create joy for kids – it’s so cool.
Millar sent out a Facebook post about the theft and he had received messages of support from around the country.
“I’m absolutely overwhelmed and the response has been fantastic.”
In the meantime his income has stopped and he’s relying on the goodwill of people in the Franklin community to help him bounce back.
A retired cabinetmaker has donated old tools, and a local business has offered Millar a workshop space to complete his current order of toys.
“The Franklin district needs to pat itself on the back,” he said.
Pioneer Wooden Toy’s current production is labour intensive and a full 10-hour day produces around 10 toy diggers.
Millar said he was just a typical kiwi battler trying to support his family.
“Everyone empathises with a small kiwi business – I’m just trying to make a living.”
Millar suggested to other tradespeople to make a list of tools and upload them to Snap, a New Zealand Police initiative aimed at helping track stolen property and assist with insurance claims.
He said he wanted to raise awareness and make it harder for thieves to sell his tools.
If you have any information contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.