Ultimately, the couple settled on three main products: the Girder & Panel set; a Bridge & Turnpike set; and a Hydrodynamic product that includes tanks, pipes, valves, and other components aimed at modeling an industrial building.
In all of the pieces, the goal was realism. "Our toys look just like the bridges and buildings that are built in cities and malls," Flack said. "And our parts look just like the real thing. Realism was very important to us."
The desire for such realism is a holdover from Flack's days as a kid playing with the product. "I used to lay on the floor and look up at the bridges, as if I was looking at a real bridge. The only difference now is I say, 'That part is designed for tension; that one is compression; that one is torsion.' "
Flack tested the construction sets by assembling a soaring, 16.5-foot model of Chicago's Sears Tower (now called the Willis Tower) in his suburban-Boston home. Because the model was too big to fit in his dining room's display area, Flack and his two kids constructed it in the home's stairwell, which has a two-story-high ceiling. In all, the scale model used 22,000 parts. Construction of it was so complex that Flack had to build special tools to connect the building's interior beams and columns. A few years ago, Carol asked him to remove the massive model from the home's stairwell. Today, it resides in a Connecticut toy store.
Flack said that most of the requests for the toys come from people who remember the vintage-1960s construction sets. "I've heard from people who are absolutely thrilled that these products are back because they loved them so much as kids," he told us. "Now they want their grandkids to have them."
In a perfect world, Flack believes, those grandkids would grow up to be engineers themselves. The couple's daughter, who grew up as part of the family's business, is now studying chemical engineering. Flack believes that was in part caused by her choice of toys as a child.
"I believe it affects your career choice. Toys are a huge influence on what you become in life."