by Charles Cassady
“Wild” times have come to the industrial strip along Pleasant Valley Road, with the opening of the new headquarters of Wild Republic in the former location of Kichler Lighting, 7711 East Pleasant Valley Rd.
Wild Republic is a manufacturer and retailer of stuffed-animal figures and toys, typically offered as souvenirs at museums, nature centers and zoo gift shops around the world. But there is more to the company than just creating furry friends.
Wild Republic’s origins date back to 1979 India, with founders G.B. and Kamala Pillai (grandson Vishnu Chandran is the current CEO). The Pillais have sponsored wild animal sanctuaries and an orphanage for Indian girls. The company is also in partnership with India-based KMIT Solutions, business software and technology specialists that enable zoos, aquariums and parks to function more efficiently, according to Wild Republic’s website.
What the visiting public knows, of course, are the toys. The majority of Wild Republic’s stuffed-animal figures (latterly manufactured from recycled materials and bioplastics), while whimsical, are also designed for a degree of realism. The toys are intended to support the missions of zoos and natural parks, promote appreciation of worldwide animal life, raise awareness of endangered species and educate youngsters.
Wild Republic has worked together with the Audubon Society and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, which provided authentic recorded bird calls that Wild Republic’s products can emit.
Kichler Lighting’s distribution center and corporate offices formerly used part of the 400,000-square-foot Pleasant Valley Road property as showrooms. The Wild Republic offices have announced no open-to-the-public merchandise areas. Products can, however, be found on shelves in gift shops of the Cleveland Metroparks, the Akron Zoo and many others.
Concurrent with its arrival in Independence, Wild Republic donated 150 plush toys to the Cornerstone of Hope counseling service on Brecksville Road, in addition to distributing an estimated $100,000 worth of toys to hospitals and foster-care centers throughout Cuyahoga County via local Rotary Clubs, according to Independence Mayor Greg Kurtz’s update. Wild Republic’s grand-opening ceremony was timed to Nov. 29, 2022, a charity-minded date popularized as Giving Tuesday.
“The city of Independence is excited to welcome such a generous and community-focused organization to its portfolio of businesses,” said Independence Economic Development Director Jessica Hyser. “We are eager to see Wild Republic continue to grow from this new, larger location.” ∞