When Mike Taylor began developing his innovative Regrout Tool four years ago, he pictured marketing them in California to tile setters.
Instead, the tool that acts like a miniature jackhammer in removing grout from tile surfaces was picked up in Europe and New Zealand, and it’s manufactured in China. That means instead of visiting places like Fresno, Modesto and Bakersfield, the Orcutt man markets his product at big-time hardware shows in Orlando, Atlanta, Indianapolis and Ft. Wayne, Ind., and he flies internationally to check on production and distribution of electric grout remover.
Mike won’t have to venture far from his wife Rita and five children for his next product show. The Regrout Tool is now at Oak Knolls Hardware and Home Center in Orcutt, just a few blocks from home.
He will demonstrate how the tool works from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. July 6, when the store holds its sidewalk sale. The store is located at 1155 E. Clark Ave.
“I just wanted it selling the stores in California. I just wanted a manufacturer to distribute it to tile setters in California,” Mike said of his initially modest plan that began when he trademarked the word “regrout” in 1993 for his tile business.
Over the past three years, the Taylors — Mike, Rita and children Theresa, Levi, Michelle and twins Megan and Ryan — have poured their collective souls into making the Regrout Tool a success.
“It’s good,” Rita said. “It’s just taken a lot longer than we thought. We had no idea. We’re excited, but we’re not (as far) down the road (as) we thought we’d be by now.”
Mike said the family sold its SUV to pay for an international patent, instead driving a large family van provided by a family member.
He also recalls schlepping carry-on bags filled with 40 pounds of his prototypes to visit potential manufacturer and invention shows. His appearance at the 2012 National Hardware Show in Las Vegas helped propel the Regrout Tool’s launch.
Chinese manufacturer ZHZ Hardware is building the tool and Hyde Tools, a Southbridge, Mass.-based company, is distributing it in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand.
The product is also distributed in Europe by Vitrex under the name Grout Out, where it has already won innovative product awards, including being honored by the British magazine DIY Week as 2012 Product of the Year.
Now, Mike travels like a hardware rock star jetting around the world at his distribution companys’ expense.
“I’m on call all of the time, now. Going all over and just demonstrating the tool to the buyers to the big warehouse people,” Mike said.
He visited the National Hardware Show in Las Vegas again this year.
“This time I got to fly there. Stayed at the (Las Vegas Marriott). Got driven to the show,” he said. “It’s phenomenal. I get to the airport, I just slide my license through and the tickets are there. The one thing I asked for is, I told them we have an airport here and I want to fly out of Santa Maria, and they said, ‘No problem.’”
Mike said his product is moving so well that he turned down a free trip to China, although he admitted he’ll probably be going to Japan this summer to do an Asian tool show. He also said he would most likely be headed to Europe and Australia, as well.
With the product beginning to show up on the shelves of American hardware stores such as True Value, Ace, Orgill, Do it Best, Mike is hoping the warehouse stores like Home Depot, Lowe’s and Orchard Supply Hardware pick it up, too.
He said despite how well the product is being accepted and sold overseas, his family hasn’t quite seen the financial windfall he’d envisioned. That means he hasn’t quite given up his Regrout tile business.
“Once it hits, it should be very good,” he said, adding he hopes the awards and accolades keep coming as well. “We’ve won two awards in two competitions. Once it gets here we’re hoping it wins more awards. I have a big mantle.”