Thursday, September 15, 2011
Partners produce Case key holders
By BARRY BURLESON
Woodwork comes easy for 72-year-old Joe Hurdle.
“I’ve been doing it since I was 10,” he said. “When I get an idea, anything’s possible.”
About two years ago he walked into Booker Hardware in downtown Holly Springs with a piece of wood shaped like an old-fashioned skeleton key. It had hooks across the bottom for hanging keys.
That’s when the wheels started spinning in the head of young businessman Jonathan Moore, who opened his Case cutlery store inside Booker’s in 2006.
“I wondered if he could make a key holder in the shape of a Case pocket knife,” said Moore, 29.
Two weeks later Hurdle walked back into Booker’s with the new product.
“We decided to run the idea by Case,” Moore said.
They visited the Shot Show in Orlando, Fla., where vendors come to see new products. They met with Case officials.
“They were stunned by what we had come up with and gave us permission to proceed,” Moore said.
He and Hurdle worked on the project another year – including packaging, licensing agreement and liability insurance.
“We had to meet certain standards – do’s and don’ts,” Moore said about working with Case.
Last year Moore, his wife Rebecca and Hurdle traveled to the Case Knife Factory in Bradford, Pa., for final approval, which came quickly.
Since then, the new partnership, J&J Woodcrafters has been producing the key holder licensed under Case. Hurdle handles the woodworking and Moore the packaging.
They’ve made more than 400 so far. The two biggest Case Master Dealers in the United States – Smoky Mountain Knife Works in Sevierville, Tenn., and Shepherd Hills Cutlery in Lebanon, Mo., are carrying their key holders.
“We’re getting ready to ship another order to Smoky Mountain,” Moore said. “They’re going to advertise them in their Christmas catalog that is distributed all over the U.S.”
All the key holders are the same size, just different patterns. All are made from locally-harvested hardwood.
The different patterns include The Trapper, Texas Toothpick, Russlock, Copperlock, Stockman and Swayback.
“It’s a novelty item,” Hurdle said. “It does better in Case dealer stores. The Case name is a big help. That brand sells itself.”
He said he is consistently perfecting the process of making the key holders.
“I started out by taking a knife out of pocket, doing a few measurements and upping them,” Hurdle said. “I used an Xacto knife on the first ones. Now, each shape has a jig.
“I’ve discovered ways to make it easier and I’m still making changes. There’s about 50 steps in making one.”
He said just “making a few all along” he can produce about 80 in two weeks.
“I told them (the Case officials) that 50 a week was my limit,” Hurdle said.
That’s because the retiree said he is also committed to church, fishing and a day off to do fun things like gardening.
“I can work three days,” Hurdle said with a laugh.
The hardest part, Moore said, was getting the packaging right.
Moore and Hurdle are in contact with other Case dealers but they don’t want to get too big too quickly.
“I can’t push Mr. Joe too hard,” Moore said. “We’re producing them in his time frame.”
Hurdle said, smiling, “We’re not going to get any bigger.”
But at the same time, they’re working on other products, like a display case for Case knives.
“This is a big opportunity for Joe and me,” Moore said. “Having a product like this made here will help bring people to Holly Springs. We’re helping put Holly Springs on the map.”
Most of all, the two men, 43 years apart in age, are having fun. They’ve traveled all over the eastern U.S., where most of the knife collectors are located.
“I often stop and ask, ‘How in the world did all of this happen?’ ” Moore said. “It’s has been an amazing experience for both of us.”
This weekend Moore and Booker Hardware will host the Case Collector Appreciation Event downtown. The annual event is set for Saturday, Sept. 17, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the east side of the square. Everyone is invited. There is no admission charge.
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