Penn-Plax began in 1956 when Marvin Goldman, an engineer and fish hobbyist, together with his wife Anita, opened Saratoga Tropiquarium, a pet shop in Brooklyn, N.Y. Soon after, Marvin’s brother Jerry joined the team as an industrial designer.
Jerry Rosen also joined the team in 1959 and was the face of sales for the compnay for many years.
Having had some prior experience with engineering and design, the brothers had the idea to try making a plastic item right in their own store by vacuum-forming it, which was basically an inexpensive manufacturing process used to mold plastic. They drafted a design on plastic, created a cheap mold that they heated on a stove in the backroom and then used a vacuum cleaner in reverse to suck the air out of the form. Hence, a business making plastic pet products was born. The company was originally going to be called Pennsylvania Plastics, but that name was already taken. The creative team started small with original products like 3-D aquarium backgrounds and air-operated
aquarium ornaments. After the success of these items, Penn-Plax branched out into different products and moved from the pet store's backroom to a manufacturing plant. Some of their popular items included Aquari-Lux aquarium lighting (launched in 1959), the first line of realistic plastic aquarium plants as well as cat Litter-Liners. Always innovative, they expanded the business further by adding original bird toys and accessories, undergravel filters, award-winning air pumps, valves and Quick-Nets.
Penn-Plax’s sales really took off in the early 1980s with the launch of SAM (Small Animal Modules), a series of interlocking tubes, cages and other items for hamsters, gerbils and similar pets. Today their inventory includes a wide variety across the dog, cat, bird, small animal and pond categories. Currently headquartered in Hauppauge, N.Y., the company is thriving and has a long list of patents.
Whatever Penn-Plax did, they always did it with class. For example, few firms in this business have been successful with licensing but Penn-Plax shows it can be done well. They make hugely popular aquariums and accessories featuring Disney’s Mickey Mouse and The Little Mermaid and Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob.
For more than 50 years the goals of the founders have driven, and still drive, Penn-Plax to enhance the pet ownership experience. They have always made quality products but also extended their vision to help make them saleable through inventive packaging and innovative marketing promotions. Sales concepts are built around whole categories rather than just individual products.