Great piece a reader just pointed us to in yesterday's New York Times about Russellville-based Grace Manufacturing, makers of the Microplane line of kitchen tools that've been widely embraced and often rapturously praised within the foodie world. Oprah and Martha Stewart are fans. The Dallas Morning News once promised the grater would turn cheese into "baby-fine clouds." I know little about grating, but my wife swears by ours.
While the Microplane line now accounts for 65% of Grace's business, the kitchen was never the focus, according to the Times article.
“I didn’t set out to make cheese graters,” Mr. Grace, an engineer by education, said recently. In 1977, he moved south from Michigan to this town 75 miles northwest of Little Rock in search of a warmer climate and more favorable small-business taxes.
“I thought I was making serious woodworking tools,” he continued. “To see them used in the kitchen, that was frankly a personal disappointment.”
Later, Grace discovered another unintended market.
Following the lead of a customer who — when dressing for a summer wedding where she wore sandals — grated calluses from her soles with a Microplane, Grace Manufacturing started selling files in 2004 for shaving desiccated skin from human feet.
“Not everyone zests,” said Chris Grace, sounding the pragmatic tone that characterizes the family ethic. “But everyone has calluses on their feet, or they know someone who does.”