Little toys, big toys and paper trails

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 6, 2006

By Adam Hammer, staff writer

MANCHESTER &045; &8220;It’s like being a third-grader and you’re running with papers flying out of your backpack and you’re trying to catch up to the bus,&8221; Paul Jensen, owner of Jensales in Manchester, said of how it feels to be back at work after spending a year with the Navy in Kuwait.

Jensen &045; as a commander doing explosive ordnance disposal for Special Operations in the U.S. Navy &045; plays with explosives, he said. He was stationed in Kuwait during 2005 and returned in January.

&8220;We provided them with security they wouldn’t have otherwise had,&8221; he said. The people of Kuwait seemed welcoming of U.S. troops, Jensen said. Twenty clicks down the road in Saudi Arabia, however, Jensen sensed angst toward people of the Western Hemisphere.

When he didn’t have his hands full with explosives, Jensen was looking over e-mails and reports from Jensales on his laptop via wi-fi hotspot.

He was able to keep in touch and send some of the 3,000 or so pictures he took with his Sony digital camera to his family from the rack of his bed. His wife, Jennifer, and daughters Emily and Odelia sent him about 1,000 pictures of life around home.

Though Jensen was able to technologically stay connected as Jensales’ manager while in Kuwait, there was still a lot of catching up to do on his return.

Jensen has a lot of operations under one roof at Jensales. In the front of the building, there is retail, in the back there are databases and libraries of tractor manuals as well as copiers, printers and a press for making graphics on T-shirts. Around the corner, there is a toy tractor fabrication area. Jensales has also started overhauling toy pedal tractors.

&8220;I stay busy or I get in trouble,&8221; Jensen said.

Toys

Many of Jensales’ toy tractors are hand-made and one of a kind. Some of them sell for as much as $1,500 dollars.

&8220;We can start with a stock toy and make it something new,&8221; Jensen said.

Roger Seltun, a retired truck driver, has been building toy tractors at Jensales for six years.

&8220;We make things you couldn’t just go to the toy store and buy,&8221; Seltun said.

Seltun bases much of his customization on submitted photographs. If a customer sends him a picture of a tractor they want replicated, Seltun starts with a stock toy tractor and builds any necessary additional parts &045; If a customer’s tractor had custom built stairs, so will Seltun’s 1/16-scale toy replica.

&8220;I learn something new just about every day,&8221; Seltun said.

Sometimes, Jensales’ small line of toy tractors get recognized by major toy manufacturers and they become competition.

&8220;We sold so many of the Farmall B’s that Ertl started making them,&8221; Jensen said.

Manuals

Toy tractors are not Jensales’ only one-of-a-kind product line. It also distributes tractor manuals for most every manufacturer around the world. There are other companies that sell manuals, but they are usually brand specific.

Jensales has about 16,000 manuals in its library with customers all over the world. Its last manual sale was to a customer on the island of Vanuatu, near Australia.

Tractors and heavy machinery are often purchased in other countries as

second- or third-generation equipment. As used equipment, the manuals are often lost and that’s where Jensales comes in.

Jensales does all of its work in house, including printing and binding, using just-in-time operations; manuals are not printed until they’re needed. The unprinted manuals are stored electronically and routed for print through the rasturized image processor to the three high-volume printers.

With 16,000 different manuals, Jensales has about 85 manuals it sells most often. While most manuals are stored electronically until they get orders for them, their most popular 85 are kept stocked and printed at all times. Coming up with a system to keep stock of those 85 was challenging.

&8220;I couldn’t find a process that worked better than the messy human aspect,&8221; Jensen said pointing to a rack stocked with tractor manuals. &8220;It’s sometimes quicker to just have people look.&8221;

Bigger toys

New to Jensales’ service line are pedal tractor overhauls.

People tend to get attached to their antiques, Jensen said, and pedal tractor antiques are no different. They take in pedal tractors that are worn, scuffed and missing decals and return them to their original look.

Overhauling pedal tractors can be challenging, Jensen said. Many of them are missing decals and have obviously been beat on and played with for years. Some of the older are often no longer available to order and matching the original paint can be difficult.

Besides renovating the tractors for service orders, Jensales also sells new pedal tractors in their retail area.

&8220;You can take free test rides, but you have to make your own tractor noises,&8221; Jensen said.

From tractors to motorcycles

In 1999, Jensen opened Jenspeed, a motorcycle racing equipment company.

&8220;Mainly to feed my habits,&8221; he said. &8220;Our key focus is on hardcore racing equipment.&8221;

Jensen has been racing motorcycles for years and is very competitive, he said. There are five riders, including his wife Jennifer, on the Jenspeed race team.

This year, Jensen will only be racing in a few endurance competitions because of setbacks with being in Kuwait.

&8220;I build my own race bikes and realized I didn’t have enough time to build my own bike when I got back,&8221; he said.

His main focus at the track this year will be as crew chief and team manager with concentration on Jennifer’s racing.