Chatterbox announced yesterday via their homepage and blog that they have been purchased by Ultra-Pro, also the parent of 7 Gypsies. Chatterbox says that Melody Ross will continue as the company’s Head of Design and that design operations will remain in Idaho. Warehouse and shipping operations will move to City of Commerce, CA, where Ultra-Pro is headquartered. The company also says that they are working on new products for CHA-Winter release.
7 Gypsies was acquired by Ultra-Pro in Dec. 2004. The announcement of that acquisition was similar in terms to the Chatterbox announcement – that the company would continue to operate under its own name and that founders Steve and Donna Smylie would continue to run the design part of the company from Mesa, AZ while the inventory operations would move to City of Commerce.
Ultra-Pro’s main business before its acquisition of 7 Gypsies was sheet storage products for items like sports cards, comics, photos and CDs. The company was family-founded in 1952 and became "Ultra-Pro" in 2002.
This is the second major ownership change in a little over 13 months for Chatterbox. In November 2006, the company brought in an investor to take over their business operations and allow company founder Melody Ross to revert to a creative role with the company. Since then, Chatterbox has produced relatively few new products and in the past few months has been aggressive in selling off inventory through its consumer website at near fire-sale prices.
7 Gypsies has continued to operate as a "small manufacturer" despite its acquisition by Ultra-Pro and the influence of its parent company has been virtually invisible to its consumers. I would expect this to be the case for Ultra-Pro’s management of Chatterbox as well. I certainly wouldn’t anticipate any attempts to merge the two entities, which have distinctly different style identities.
Will Ultra-Pro be the savior that Chatterbox seems to need? Stay tuned….