Friday, June 11, 2004 04:59 PM
Point Pleasant resident designs inventive way to pack for beach
By Bill MIller
Going to the beach is a summer ritual for many residents of the Jersey Shore.
A common problem many beachgoers face prior to hitting the sand is how to pack beach essentials without having all the room in their beach bags taken up by their towel.
Point Pleasant resident Tina Marie Connors believes she has invented a solution to that problem by a creating a beach towel that can transform into a backpack or tote bag. Known as the Towel Down, Ms. Connors has patented her invention, shown it on television and recently won a silver medal at an inventors expo in Pittsburgh.
On Monday Ms. Connors demonstrated how Towel Down works. Not only can it simply be pulled through to create the backpack or tote bag, but when it is a towel it has pockets for keeping keys and wallets hidden and safe. There is also a pouch that can be stuffed with sand to create a pillow for lying down to sunbathe and other pockets that can be filled to weigh the towel down so the wind doesnt carry it away. The product is also equipped with Velcro that allows several Towel Downs to be joined together to make a blanket.
Ms. Connors recalled how she invented her towel, noting her background was in finance, not design. Ms. Connors graduated from Pace University in New York with a degree in management information systems. While going to school she worked full-time on the New York Mercantile Exchange. She worked her way up from runner to commodities trader spending 18 years in the exchange.
Ms. Connors noted when she got married she moved from Battery Park in Manhattan, where her commute was 10-minute walk, to New Jersey, where her commute became two hours long. Eventually, the commute caused her to give up her job in the city and work from home on her trading career. By February 1998 Ms. Connors had moved to Point Pleasant.
Yet, Ms. Connors explained, she had been coming to the beach long before she moved to Point Pleasant, often spending time in the Hamptons and at the Jersey Shore. She said it was her frequent beach excursions, and the aggravation often caused by standard beach towels that inspired her invention.
The corners would blow up. You try to put things on the corners to weigh them down. I just couldnt stand it so I decided to invent a towel with everything in it, said Ms. Connors.
She added she also wanted something that could keep a persons hands free as they walked to the beach, hence the towels ability to become a backpack.
In 1995 Ms. Connors said she did a patent search and found there was no similar product on the market. Once she began trading from home she got the patent, a process that she noted takes a couple years to complete.
Now I had the time to put into the towel and to get things going, said Ms. Connors.
As for how she actually designed the towel, Ms. Connors said one day she just went out and bought a sewing machine and some washcloths and made it herself. While she describes the original towel as a silly prototype it was inspired enough that she took that prototype to a dry cleaner and for $400 had a more professional looking prototype made. When the time came she found a manufacturer and sent the second prototype in to be mass produced.
Since then Ms. Connors has done her best to get the word out about her invention. She noted she has done interviews in newspapers and well as on television and radio. She has also seen her towel included in the gift baskets given to the nominees of the 2003 Latin American Music Awards and the 2004 Screen Actors Guild Awards. She also noted she recently sold an order of 2,500 towels to Trump Plaza for use in an upcoming promotion.
Most recently, Ms. Connors won the silver medal at the INPEX [Invention and New Product Exposition] show in Pittsburgh in May. The 2004 invention show included participants from throughout the United States and 20 other countries and included more than 1,000 inventions.
When I won I was very happy about that, said Ms. Connors, who noted she got to have a picture taken with Art Fry, the inventor of Post-Its.
Looking to the future, Ms. Connors said she made many contacts at the invention show and will be attending another trade expo in Las Vegas in September. She said ultimately, she would like to see her towel on the shelves in Wal-Mart and Target stores or perhaps on a shopping channel such as QVC.
For now, Ms. Connors, towels are for sale locally at Brave New World as well several other shops in beach areas such as Cape May. She also sells them online at www.toweldown.com.
As for those who have seen and used the Towel Down, Ms. Connors said, I get a lot of positive feedback. A lot of people like it. People are starting to use it.
Basically I had an idea. I didnt want the years to pass and say I should have tried that. If doesnt work out Ill know I did my best, and if it does work out; great, itll be a nice accomplishment and the work is worth it, said Ms. Connors.
File last updated 06/11/2004 at 16:39:01
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