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Clearwater bracket inventor sees mailbox flags from sea to shining sea

Steve Granade and his latest invention: a quick-stick bracket that attaches stick flags to curbside mailboxes. He spent a few years developing it and insisted that all parts be manufactured in the United States. 

JIM DAMASKE | Times

Steve Granade and his latest invention: a quick-stick bracket that attaches stick flags to curbside mailboxes. He spent a few years developing it and insisted that all parts be manufactured in the United States. 

Everybody has dreams. Steve Granade's is more streets like his own in Countryside that's decked out with flags sprouting from two dozen curbside mailboxes.

"I see waves of mailbox flags spreading from neighborhood to neighborhood," said the 55-year-old hobbyist-inventor of a $4 stick-on bracket that makes it possible. "People turned to displaying the flag to feel better after 9/11. Maybe this can help bring the country together again."

And help this would-be home marketer snag a few bucks launching what might turn into the next patriotic fad.

With a name pronounced like a handheld explosive, Granade has a history of inventing stuff you didn't know you need. Like the suntan lotion applicator for remote corners of your back. Or in days when pay phones were plentiful, his thoughtful "call me" $1 greeting cards scripted with appropriate prose and a slot to store a quarter. And don't forget edible Flubb's Fishing Worms made from gummi candy.

"Kids and fish loved them," he recalled. None was profitable. But he did generate sufficient cash to buy a small boat and keep his wife, Helen, an airline flight attendant, supportive. But for Granade, a self-styled fix-it guy by nature, the thrill is the hunt for a product solution more than hitting a big score.

"It took me three years to develop the quick-stick flag bracket because every part had be made in the USA," said Granade, an Auburn University grad who sells the bracket online at Prd2be.com. "I had distributors interested early, but they all wanted it made in China."

Cheap, disposable yardstick flags are just the sort of product Granade, who spent much of his career in corporate marketing at consumer products companies and trade publications, sees yearning to be kicked up a notch.

Most stick flags end up poked into the ground in cemeteries, which typically forbid sticking brackets on tombstones.

He moved to mailboxes because they are government property, protected by law from most forms of advertising. But they can be used to display flags and sports pennants. The market brims with metal and plastic brackets to hold flags. But to protect the hands of mail-delivery folks, it's illegal to bolt, screw or nail any bracket to a mailbox.

In his dining room, Granade hand-poured plastic resin into a variety of molds he handcrafted to form the brackets. He found a weatherproof 3M adhesive that's tough enough to hold road toll tag devices on cars. He talked his product through the postal regulators and filed for patents.

No one-trick pony, his bracket also sticks on other rough surfaces to hold pinwheels, spinners or windsocks.

A Dunedin Ace Hardware tested them in a summer display of yard flags. He sold a couple dozen. That was enough to line up friends and relatives to help assemble a stockpile of 3,500 brackets and secure national distribution with Annin & Co., one of the nation's oldest and biggest makers of flags and accessories.

"They are selling very well so far, and we just got them in the catalog for True Value Hardware stores," said Dale Coots, Annin marketing manager. "It's a unique item, and let me tell you, I get a couple product pitches a week, so I've seen them all."

One of the most frequently pitched: inventions that keep flags from tangling in wind.

Of course, Granade is working on his own solution. But that's another story.

Mark Albright can be reached at albright@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8252.

Clearwater bracket inventor sees mailbox flags from sea to shining sea 05/31/10 [Last modified: Monday, May 31, 2010 6:18pm]
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