The idea for the sewing machine table came to Scot Lindsay and Ken Maring when Scot’s wife, an avid seamstress, six years ago said to him: “Honey, go make a table.”
Lindsay recalls his wife was seeking a way to keep her fabric straight and her sewing area uncluttered. He tried plywood then plexiglass.
She loved the 1-by-2 foot table that sat on her desk, and told her friends. Word spread and soon there were requests for similar tables.
And now the requests are worldwide - from Australia England, Denmark and Sweden.
And though neither Lindsay nor Maring has an particular interest in sewing, the two North Idaho inventors have a steady business producing the small plexiglass tables.
They began their company, Dream World Enterprises, when Maring came back to Bonners Ferry in 1988, after living in Seattle and Virginia, trying to start a business. Maring contacted high school friend Lindsay, who was working at his father’s hardware store, and the two started brain-storming.
The first product was a “pet balloon” that would try to follow people wherever they went.
Then came the “feeter heater,” an electric blanket that only covers the lower half of the bed.
Next there was the drip-proof chimney cap.
“Ideas are a dime a dozen,” says Lindsay, 38. “If you see something that doesn’t work, you fix it. You see the need.”
Maring, 34, agrees. “I think everyone comes up with ideas, but most don’t know how to do it, or believe they can’t do it.”
They have 23 ideas on paper now, and are talking with Black & Decker officials about an unnamed product. For now, their biggest business, along with providing Internet service, is the sewing table. It’s all hands-on-work.
In their 1,200-square-foot office on Main Street here, the two produce 70 tables a day for 302 different accounts worldwide.
The back room is filled with plexiglass shavings and patterns hanging on the wall. They have 650 patterns to fit different sewing machines.
Maring and Lindsay do the work themselves, with the help of a few other employees.
Dream World sells the tables to mail order catalogs, sewing machine stores and distributors. They also sell to sewing stores in Spokane, Sandpoint and Couer d’Alene.
They will also take orders from anyone off the street and design a table to fit their machine, Maring says.
“Never do a product without a trade show,” Maring advises, after meeting with company representatives at sewing industry conferences, where they negotiated most of their international accounts.
The sewing machine table sales have grown from $38,000 in 1992 to approximately $400,000 this year, Maring says.
Now they are looking at accounts in France and Japan.
And while sales continue to increase, there’s no way to protect their invention.
“You can’t patent a table,” Lindsay says.
Other inventions which might be patentable, are still in development.
Inventing runs in the family. Lindsay’s wife invented plastic covers to slip over shirt buttons to protect them in the wash.
“It’s a little creative thinking,” Lindsay says slipping a small plastic cover out of his pocket as he leans against a table in the office.
Ever since Maring was a kid, he’s always been tinkering, said his mother, Georgie Maring, who owns an appliance shop next door.
“He was always very intelligent. When he had something to do he didn’t wait around,” she said.
And while the feeter heater and the pet balloon may not have worked, they’ve got more ideas, and they’ll keep trying.
Hopes are high for the secretive hardware product.
“The president of Stanley sent us a nice letter. They thought it was a great idea,” Lindsay said, declining to elaborate on the product. “We still think it is a viable product.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo