Polliwalks Taps Thornton, Gets Funding

NEW YORK — Kids’ brand Polliwalks is on the growth track with a new CEO and fresh investment.

The Newburyport, Mass.-based company, which in late 2007 introduced a line of molded children’s shoes shaped like animals and insects, has tapped Rick Thornton as its new president and CEO. Thornton was president and COO of Stride Rite Corp. from 2003 to 2007.

According to Dave Levy, who had been serving as Polliwalks’ president but will now assume the role of chairman, Thornton’s proven track record in the children’s industry made him an ideal pick for the job.

“Rick has a real passion for the business and brings a tremendous amount of expertise to the table,” Levy said. “He will be instrumental in taking Polliwalks to the next level.”

On the heels of Thornton’s appointment, Polliwalks signed a partnership deal with The Walnut Group, a Cincinnati-based private equity firm with a diverse portfolio of investments that range from specialty retailer Build-A-Bear Workshop to Broadway shows including “Jersey Boys” and “Hairspray.” James Gould, managing general partner for The Walnut Group, which now holds a 25 percent stake in the brand, said Polliwalks’ “toys for the feet” concept fits with his company’s penchant for specialty products with entertainment value.

“When we consider potential investments, we look for things that tell a story, that kids can interact with,” he said. “We tried out the [Polliwalks] shoes with a focus group of young kids, and they just fell in love with them.” He said his firm would look to help grow the brand through licensing opportunities where relevant.

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