The story of Henderson Recreation Equipment began over 40 years ago in small-town Ontario, Canada. Gordon Henderson, company patriarch, was a new father to the first of his three boys. His days were spent hard at work as plant manager for the Paris Playgrounds, while his nights were spent dreaming of a playground business of his own.
As a second-generation playground maker, Henderson had the right mix of experience, skill and enthusiasm to make a playground business work. On top of that, he had the benefit of a brother who worked by his side building playground equipment, and the legacy of their deceased father, Charlie, who had made playground building his life’s work.
Before long, Henderson recognized an opportunity in the market. He could see that customers were eager for new play equipment options that went beyond the freestanding slides and swing sets typical of playgrounds in the 1960s and 70s.
In 1971 Henderson’s dream was realized when he began building playground equipment in the big green workshop behind his family home in Oakland, Ontario.
Business started out small, producing park amenities and select play items that were uniquely his own—products like Henderson Teeters, Panda Bear Swings and Woodchuck Burrows that recognized the importance of creativity and novelty in children’s playground equipment.
Between his three young sons, Andrew, Matthew and Charles, and his many nieces and nephews from his three brothers, Henderson had a committee of eager product testers and the motivation to make the best play equipment on the market. His goal was to give customers the quality, curb appeal and custom options they wanted.
By the late 1970s, business was booming and a larger facility was essential to continuing their work. The former Norwich milk plant made an ideal new home, giving them ample space for production and offices.
More family members soon came on board. Henderson’s brother, David, and his wife, Vicky, still work in sales to this day, with a daughter, Rachel, working as a playground designer.
When the Henderson boys came of age, they were eager to work in manufacturing and installation during their summer holidays and college and University breaks. Today all three sons are involved in management positions in the company. For Matthew and Charles, the family business has been there sole employer.
“It’s a super bonus when you have a family business and you can make things work,” said Henderson.
The growth continued until a second move was necessary, taking the business to its current home in Simcoe in 1995. This larger and more practical facility combines the floor space and large office needed to run the business today.
Henderson continues to be active in the day-to-day operations of Henderson Recreation. You may catch him walking the shop floor to offer his expertise to the latest generation of playground makers. But more likely, as the business transitions to the third generation of Hendersons, he may be busy watching any of his eight grandchildren hard at “work” testing new products.