As someone who has spent numerous vacations in Ohio, I can tell you that easy access to alcohol would be a great boon to anyone living in the Buckeye State. So you’ve got to feel bad for entrepreneur Brian Pearson, a guy whose successful product launch brought down the holy wrath of Ohio First Lady Hope Taft and state liquor officials. Oddly, he found salvation in Temperance. Temperance, MI, that is…
Pearson’s story began in December 1998 when he was home on leave during a four-year stint in the Marines. He was helping his mom prepare for his sister’s 21st birthday party. “She told me to run to the store and go pick up some Jell-O shots for the party,” Pearson recalls. He laughed and told his mom you don’t buy Jell-O shots at the store. Then a light bulb went off in his brain.
He began making plans to prepackage the shots, find the perfect plastic containers, and develop a laminated aluminum foil lid that wouldn’t be affected by the alcohol content.
“Zippers, the Original Gelatin Shot” was born….
“We went from delivering cases, to delivering pallets, and then delivering by the truckload,” he said. “We went from one state to 24 states in a matter of a year.”
With success came attention. Not just from bar owners, but from the Ohio first lady, who was concerned the product’s colorful packaging might encourage the young to slurp:
He was sitting in his Toledo office one day when about 30 ATF agents and sheriff’s deputies — some with weapons drawn — burst into his business waving a search warrant based on allegations he was illegally manufacturing alcoholic products. They seized computers, monitors, printers, fax machines and even cubicle walls, but no manufacturing equipment was to be found. They also raided his Genoa, Ohio home. News outlets reported that he was being accused of manufacturing illegal products and that he could face felony charges.
As a result, Zippers took another blow.
“I lost almost all of my business in a matter of 45 to 60 days,” he said.
Fortunately, Pearson fought back and won. Though charges were filed, the grand jury refused to indict him and he has since successfully moved his business toTemperance, Michigan, where officials were glad to have him. Zippers are already selling again in 15 states. Good for him! Bad for Ohio!
Full story here.
Related: I like to imagine this old Cosby Jell-O commercial is really for Pearson’s Zippers.
[Via the Quick and the Dead, a blog I just discovered today but will keep reading. Also, I apologize for the cheap, obvious Ohio joke. I shouldn’t say such things about the state that’s home to Skyline chili, Montgomery Inn ribs, Graeter’s ice cream, and Tony Packo’s pickles. I’m sorry, Ohio. Don’t cut me off, ok?]