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12/9/2004

Too hot for handles

By Jolie Breeden
The Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT — David Root was tired of burning his fingers on the metal handles of his professional cookware, so he decided to do something about it.

He whined.

“Necessity isn’t the mother of invention,” he said. “Whining is the mother of invention.”

That may be true, especially if you have a wife like Janet Root, who designed an attachable potholder in response to her husband’s complaints.

“Pretty much my whole life, when I see something that’s not working, I want to make it work or make it better,” she said.

That’s the start of the process that passes for research and development at the Longmont couple’s kitchen accessory startup, Root Creations.

“I whine, she comes up with an idea to fix that, then we go into product development,” Root said with a laugh.

In this case, the process resulted in the Finga-Sava, a hot pad that can be wrapped around the loop-style handles found on dutch ovens and the lids of many brands of high-end cookware.

“Lots of people make hot pads but none of them make a product with the ability to leave on the handle,” Root said. “You’re not constantly looking around for it.”

The Finga-Savas, which retail for about $13 for a package of three, can also be fastened together to accommodate long-handled pans.

Along with the functionality of the product, Janet Root made sure to throw in a little frivolity.

“I like to work from a utilitarian aspect first and then make it pretty,” she said.

To that end, the pads, which are made of flame-resistant, heat-resistant material, are available in a number of colors and fun patterns.

The company has sold more than 300 packages of the pliable protectors since introducing them in May.

The Roots are marketing the product at conventions and on the Internet, as well as at local gourmet kitchen stores, such as Peppercorn in Boulder and The Cupboard in Fort Collins.

But the Roots plan to reach out to the professional culinary industry and outdoor enthusiasts in the future.

“A lot of people use them for uses other than what we designed them for,” David Root said, citing customers who claim they’re great for camping and outdoor cooking. “They’re small enough to fit in a backpack. Even three of them are smaller than a hot pad.”

A self-described high-tech refugee, Root had always wanted to start his own business. He finally decided make the leap in May 2002.

After spending some time deciding which direction to take their new venture, the Roots developed their first product, called the Wrap-it. The thermal insulator designed specifically for French press-style coffeepots made its market debut in October 2003.

Since then, Root Creations has introduced an oversized hot pad for pizza stones, called the Stone Pillow, and the Finga-Sava. Another product that will keep food hot is in development.

Root said his experience with a data-storage company, in both sales and product management, has been an asset in his current venture.

“I got a very good view of how you take a product from inception to finished product, and it is no small task,” he said. “Every part of a company is critical to its success.”

Jolie Breeden can be reached at 303-684-5389, or by e-mail at jbreeden@times-call.com.