Inspiration can strike anywhere and anytime — just ask Vern Kehler.
The Red Deer trucker has developed a product that’s poised to hit store shelves across Alberta, and he can trace its origin to a moment in late 2011 when he was perched on his bathroom toilet. Specifically, Kehler was stewing over his pet peeve: toilet paper dispensers that are positioned awkwardly to the user’s side.
“I was sitting on the throne, and I was getting a little ticked off at the situation and I thought to myself, ‘It’s time to quit procrastinating. I’ve been meaning to fix this for years.”
The solution, reasoned Kehler, was to mount the toilet paper dispenser on a sliding bracket so that it could be moved forward when needed. However, efforts to find such a device on the Internet proved fruitless.
“So I made one myself.”
Kehler’s creation became the prototype for the TP Slider. Kitchen and bathroom products giant Wolseley Canada has committed to stock it in the company’s six Kitchen & Bath Classics stores in Alberta, including the showroom in Red Deer.
In fact, it was local manager Dennis Hastings who saw the potential of the TP Slider. He shared details of the invention with his Kitchen & Bath counterparts elsewhere in Canada.
“They seemed pretty excited about it.”
Hastings has display units in his store and expects to begin selling them in the next week or two. Customers are already expressing interest.
The appeal of the TP Slider, he said, lies in the fact that toilet paper dispensers must often be installed on bathroom vanities behind the toilet. That can make then difficult to reach, especially for older and less-flexible people.
“It’s mounted in such a way that you’ve got to twist and turn. It’s just awkward to get at, and then it’s awkward to rip off.”
Hastings thinks Kehler has addressed the situation.
“He’s done a hell of a job; he really has.”
Kehler had help. Early in the process he shared his idea with Gordon Muth, a Sylvan Lake-area inventor. Muth liked what he saw and became Kehler’s business partner.
A patent search revealed plans for a similar product, but these had never been commercialized and had sat for more than a decade. Ultimately, Kehler and Muth bought those patent rights so that they could proceed with their own version.
The two men have been manufacturing the TP Slider in Red Deer, with more than 2,000 units on hand. But with Kitchen & Bath Classics eager to carry the product, and other retailers and contractors also interested, they realized they had to ramp up production.
“I’ve made a deal with a Chinese company to manufacture everything, retail-ready, with my logo, my printing, my labels, my barcode,” said Kehler.
He said the TP Slider is being made with durable materials, and requires only three screws to mount.
Kehler already has more than one in his house, and said he’s getting glowing reviews from users.
“It’s a common problem. I just can’t believe that no one addressed it.”