NO ONE'S LEFT HOLDING THE BAG!
Highland Villager - Wednesday, October 6, 1999
by Catherine Condon
When he retired four years ago, John Judge finally found the time and energy to do his own lawn work. But each year, the six oak trees in the backyard of his Merriam Park home made bagging leaves almost a full-time job in the fall.
After two years of frustration, Judge devised a tool that would allow a bag to stand open so he could use both hands depositing leaves in it. He made a square sleeve out of a cardboard packing box that he found in the garage, placed a 33-gallon plastic bag over it, turned it upside down and started to fill it up with leaves.
"I called to my wife and said, ‘Come out and watch how easily I can fill these bags,"’ said Judge, now 74. "She said it was a good idea and that I should do something about marketing it."
Judge’s initial product was short-lived. Rain soaked his prototype and ruined it. However, as a former manufacturer’s representative who had dealt primarily with plastic and metal products throughout his career, Judge knew that coating the sleeve with plastic would repel moisture. He took a handmade plastic model of his design to Golden Valley-based Diversi-Plast, which made him some samples out of the same corrugated plastic it uses in manufacturing U.S. Postal Service tote boxes.
Judge tested the samples and made some modifications. Last fall his invention, called Bag ‘Em All®, made its nationwide debut on the shelves of all Hardware Hank and Trustworthy Hardware stores as well as select Ace Hardware and True Value locations. Local businesses stocking the Bag ‘Em All include Grand Avenue Ace Hardware, S & S Hardware on Randolph Avenue and Total Hardware on Snelling Avenue.
Bag ‘Em All® comes in two versions: a four-sided one for 33-, 39- and 45-gallon plastic trash bags that retails for $15.95 and a three-sided one for biodegradable 30-gallon paper bags that retails for $12.95.
The product is light, waterproof, durable, washable, reusable, foldable and environmentally friendly. Judge said it also can be used to hold open bags for sorting clothes and other household items as well as for cleaning up after parties and picnics.
"It does everything but vote," Judge said with a chuckle.
Judge’s son-in-law, an attorney, helped him apply for a patent and set up Judge Products Inc., while his daughter used her advertising background to help with such things as market research, advertising and packaging.
Though rewarding, bringing his invention to the market did have its frustrations. "It doesn’t move as fast as you anticipate and it’s expensive," he said. "Once you put the money, the patent, all of the development costs and everything else into it, it ceases to be a hobby."
The payoff appears to be imminent, however. Half of the first production run of 11,000 Bag ‘Em Alls® have already been sold.
"I think we’ve got enough to handle us through fall, but we’ll have to start making more in January or February," Judge said. "We’re now working with Wal-Mart and Home Depot (on retailing possibilities). We’re not in a profit position yet, but the potential is there.
Judge said he has had all kinds of ideas for inventions in the past, but until now he never really followed through on them.
"But when you’re old and the leaves are heavy and the children are all gone," he said, "I guess necessity makes you do it."
PERFECT FOR YARDWORK, CLEANING THE BASEMENT, PACKING UP CLOTHES AND MORE!
Judge Products, Inc.
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