From Suitcases on Wheels To Tear-Free Onion Slicers
By COREY KILGANNON
Published: August 6, 2000
THEY all laughed when Edison recorded sound,'' Ira Gershwin wrote in 1937. They also laughed at Bernard Sadow and the funny-looking suitcase on wheels he tugged into Macy's one morning.
Mr. Sadow and his prototype were ridiculed and rejected by a buyer for Macy's, which carried the conventional luggage Mr. Sadow's company, U.S. Luggage, made.
But this was 1972, and no one knew from luggage on wheels. Soon, the glum luggage manufacturer found himself wheeling his idea right back out.
''They said, 'No one's going to pull a suitcase on the end of a strap,' '' Mr. Sadow recalled.
But two weeks later, he got an appointment with a Macy's vice president who was soon doing just that: towing the suitcase around his office, giggling with glee. He called in the naysaying buyer and, smiling broadly at him, asked: ''So, Jack, what do you think of my new idea?'' recalled Mr. Sadow. ''He looked at me and then back at the boss, and he said, 'Great, I love it.' ''
The executive told the buyer to buy, and that was the start of wheels on luggage. Mr. Sadow, 75, recalled it all recently in the well-furnished living room of his sprawling Chappaqua home. Besides getting the last laugh, Mr. Sadow still receives licensing fees from manufacturers selling bags using his 1972 patent on rolling luggage.
''I know they're still selling because I watch the royalty checks coming in,'' Mr. Sadow said.
Westchester has had a long tradition of inventors. Most of the large corporations in the county, like International Business Machines, keep a stable of inventors on staff to develop technologies and processes. But more and more independent inventors are springing up, setting up shop in basements and garages around the county.
The county is still known for buttoned-down bankers and lawyers catching the 6:58, not eccentric shock-haired geniuses crying ''Eureka!'' from their workshops.
But, according to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, about 600 inventions a year are dreamed up in Westchester and patented. In New York State, only Monroe County, where Rochester-based Kodak is situated, had more patents last year at 1,549. By comparison, Manhattan had 533 and Nassau 351.
Inventors proliferate in areas with large corporations and high-education levels, said Richard J. Apley, director of the office of independent inventor programs for the Patent and Trademark Office.
Inventing is on the rise for a number of reasons, said Joanne Hayes-Rines, editor and publisher of Inventors' Digest magazine in Boston. The economy is booming, and the Internet provides a marketplace for inventors to sell their devices, as well as an information resource.
For Mr. Sadow, inspiration came one day in 1971 when he was lugging a large suitcase through customs and a man breezed by towing heavy machinery on a dolly.
''I said, 'Now that's what we need, wheels on luggage,' '' recalled Mr. Sadow, who took the heavy casters from a large trunk and fastened them to the bottom of a suitcase. He tied a rope to it, ''and it worked like a charm,'' he said.
Since then, his inventions include air-cushioned carrying cases for laptop computers, electric toothpicks and training wheels for tipsy suitcases. His latest innovation, a spray dispenser for holy water, now sells for $19.95 at the gift shop at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan.
Of course, not every inventor is as successful as Mr. Sadow.
So far, Vince and Patrice Cacciatore of Yonkers have not made any profit from their inventions; not from their toothpaste tube key, nor from their cough drop lollipop for children.
They are devout Catholics and say they invent in the name of the Lord. They hope their latest inventions hit big, so they can use the profits to rent billboard space for biblical quotations.
Mr. Cacciatore, who owns a copy machine repair service, invented a cardboard platform for take-out pizza boxes, to keep the pies from getting soggy by letting air circulate under the crust.
Mrs. Cacciatore invented memorial picture frames for owners of deceased pets. The pet's photo goes in the front and its crematory ashes go in the rear. The frames, which come in mirror and black acrylic finishes, have just gone on the Internet at a starting price of $18.99. Larger containers for human remains are coming.