An 20-year overnight success story

About 20 years ago, Minnesota was introduced to the warehouse-style grocery store concept. Besides their wide aisles stocked to the ceiling, these super-stores gave shoppers extra big carts and lots of them.

But Minnesota winters are tough, and collecting all those shopping carts in the parking lot after a blizzard was challenging and potentially hazardous. Picture one or two poor high school students maneuvering 10-15 carts into one long line, then pushing them up an incline back to the store in slushy ice and snow. It was the worst job in the supermarket…and it had to be done 24/7 for some of the stores!


An aha moment!

As this feat of popular new consumerism began taking the U.S. by storm (so to speak), Mr. X–a senior engineer at a manufacturing company–had just spent 25 years perfecting the walk-behind floor scrubber for the construction industry. When, suddenly, he had an aha moment.

“What if I built a walk-behind floor scrubber without the scrubber? It would revolutionize shopping cart retrieval!”

And just like every other inventor with a bold new idea who shows up on the hit TV show, Shark Tank, Mr. X started eating, sleeping and engineering the ultimate solution for rounding up shopping carts. He recruited his 2 sons to help him build a prototype and find out if grocery store executives couldn’t live without his new idea.


My first demonstration

Said Son #1: “I took the prototype out to all the local food chains that owned 12, 15 stores. They loved the concept. I left my first demonstration with a purchase order for 5 units.

“I delivered the 5, then visited another group of grocery stores, and gave the same demonstration. Got a purchase order for 10 more.”

Said Son #2: “After we got the first 10 orders, I turned my 8-car heated garage into our production facility. The first year, we sold 100 units. The next year we tripled that.”

Within 5 years they attracted the interest of Costco, Walmart, Target and the Food Marketing Institute. Then, Mr. X went back to the drawing board and prototyped a solution for “pushing everything else on wheels.”